At Owner’s Risk
W. L. GAYLORD
BESIDES its usual load of commuters and bandanaturbaned hikers bound for various blistering summer resorts in Fraser County, the
asthmatic five-fifteen to Boundary Bay and
Point Reyes carried, on the first Friday in August, a plump mattress and a bed-spring billed to “Miss Marian Pomeroy, Boundary Bay.” On the way bill which accompanied it, according to the Central B. C. Railway Company’s records, was stamped in red unmistakable letters the instructions: “Put off at own-
The way bill showed that the bed had gone through without mishap; the baggage man at Westminster said so; the harassed conductor and the undersized brakeman of the asthmatic five-fifteen both said so, volubly, passionately, with mouth-twisting anathemas; the tracer that the Second Assistant Adjuster of Claims sent scurrying over the system at Miss Pomeroy’s importunity said so, in rigid disinterested type such as official communications of this important nature use. Miss Pomeroy herself denied the delivery of the bed in such fluent and expressive terms that the Second Assistant Adjuster of Claims, himself a master at making words jump to his bidding, was moved to whole-souled admiration.
“Look at this friendly little note, Mr. Starling,” he said to his superior, handing him a very correctly typewritten letter on heavy bond paper. Mr. Starling
Kayeff Cabin, Boundary Bay,
August 12, 1920.
Mr. G. Cadawalder Tucker,
Central B. C. Railway,
My dear Mr. Tucker:
Your distressing communication of last Tuesday was forwarded here from my Vancouver address. Please note that I shall be in Boundary Bay the rest of the summer—providing I can get a bed—the bed, I may as well say, for I refuse to sleep in any other! At present my sister and I are spreading our blankets over the highly corrugated floor of our cabin and I must say it reminds me of certain tempestuous portions of your estimable right of way between here and Westminster! Mr. Sangenitto, the post-master, swears that my bed was not put off the five-fifteen train on the fifth. I myself arrived two or three minutes after the train pulled out and I know that the bed was not there when I arrived. Beds of that size don’t usually walk off on their own tegs! There must, I think, be some light-fingered person in your employ who makes a specialty of beds—drat him!—Won’t you please put the President and the General Traffic Manager and the Superintendent on this
case at once ? If I don’t get my bed pretty soon I shall appeal to the Dominion Railway Board.
“Well, I’m a son of a gun!” fervently ejaculated the Adjuster of Claims.
“What do you make of it, Chief? Nervy old bird, isn’t she? She sure hit us where we live on that right-of-way business!”
“Quite irrelevant, Mr. Tucker—has no bearing on her case at all. Tell her the bed is gone. Incident’s closed.”
npUCKER moved toward the door.
-*■ “ ’Nother thing,” called Mr. Starling. “Tell
her hereafter to be brief!”
“I will, sir.”
Of course the Second Assistant Adjuster of Claims had no idea of doing anything of the sort. Second Assistants are paid to keep the road out of trouble. He wrote the thoroughly incensed Miss Pomeroy a letter calculated to soothe her troubled soul; and the next day but one received the following reply without salutation or signature:
“I WANT MY BED.”
Not another word met the inquisitive eye of Mr. G. Cadawalder Tucker. “I want my bed!” capitalized and spaced clear across the page. The same impeccable bond, he noted.
“I bet you,” he solemnly asseverated, “1 bet you she gets her bed! Just the same, if old Starling would let me, I could wring tears of gratitude from that old girl’s eyes and not have to buy her another bed either! G. Cadawalder knows all their little tricks. The personal touch—that’s what this case needs.” “Old” Starling settled Mr. G. Cadawalder’s hopes with a bang.
“Go to Boundary Bay about that fool bed ? I should say not! What’s eating you, Tucker? This department has other things to do besides calling on distressed damsels with lost beds. We shan’t take up the case again.”
“I think perhaps I could pacify her if “Pacify rot! Who wants to pacify her? Let her pocket her loss and buy another bed!”
Saturday morning just as G. Cadawalder had begun to clear up his desk preparatory to making his usual noon get-away the door into the outer office swung open. He did not look up. lie busied himself running an important finger up and down a purely imaginary column of figures on tinback of a blotter which chanced to be handy. Three times he added these visionary figures, tapped his pursed
lips with his pencil, frowned, shook his head, and began to trace certain mystic hieroglyphics on the edge of the blotter.
“I beg your pardon.”
G. Cadawalder did not respond. Others had begged his pardon in tones as dulcet as these and he had looked up only to be rudely disappointed. He was glad at least that it was not a man with whom he had to deal.
“Do you really have to draw those absurd figures? Because if you do I’ll come in some other
G. Cadawalder jumped. Confronting him he beheld a girl dressed in white serge, with a floppy white leghorn hat that somehow reminded one of open fields and orange orchards.
“Certainly. I mean no—that is—well—. Were you looking for some one?”
“I was looking for my bed, but if that is the way you’ve been tracing it, 1 don’t wonder you haven’t found it yet!”
“Your b-bed?” stammered G. Cadawalder, his mental machinery still functioning heavily. “I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. The freight office is at the other end of the building.”
“You are Mr. Tucker, aren’t you?”
G. Cadawalder thought it best to acknowledge this honor, although the tone in which the question was put robbed the admission of most of its dignity.
“I thought so. You have a wonderful gift, Mr. Tucker, for putting your personality into your letters!”
G. Cadawalder took heart again. Yet he could not recall-—.
“I think you have the advantage of me.” lie groped. “I don’t believe I remember-
"I’m Marian I’omcioy, ami I've come to get that bed ! ”
“Oh. yes. of course. 1 remember the incident quite well, now. You it--lost a bed. I believe?"
“The railroad did! The bed was never pul off the
“It er must be still ill the baggage ear then. The problem, accordingly, would be to locate that pu titular ear anil
"Have you more than one? I fancied
MISS I’OMKIIOY’S voice Hailed off into realms whither Mr. <!. ('adawahler's clumsier wits could not follow. Ilf realized that she was making fun of him. but tile feeling was o thoroughly pleasant that he did not object in tile least.
“You remember i wrote you that we could do nothing further.”
Miss I Vnu-roy’s face betrayed the ripple «if inward "I am Keeping the correspondence as as a memento of an incident I shall never forget!” "You flatter me!” ".Not at all. I’m afraid you didn’t quite get my meaning.” C. Cadawalder's heart smote his ribs violently. “I I understand you perfectly. Please please go on, .Miss Pomeroy!” “Tlie case is perfectly clear!” “Really, Miss Pomeroy, you can hardly expect us in the circumstances -. \Vc have already done all in our power. Oitr responsibility ceased “Oh. don’t go over that again, please! I’ve heard it'in a million variations! I want action. not words!”
Miss Pomeroy threw out her hands. G. Cadawalder thought he had never in all his twentyfour and a quarter years seen such an appealing gesture. He would have snapped his fingers in Old Starling’s faceyes, tweaked the nose of the President himself—just to have her make that appeal to him again. Old Starling was a crabbed brute, and the Central B. C. Railway an unfeeling machine! He, G. Cadawalder Tucker, would find Miss Pomeroy’s lost spring and mattress if he had to travel the whole dinky system from Westmins. ter to Cowichan!
Upon this touching tableau burst Mr. Starling, returning from a conference.
“Well! I say, what’s all this,
Tucker? Doing a scene for the movies ?”
G. Cadawalder gulped.
“Miss Pomeroy has lost that bed she wants. I mean she wants that bed again! Or something else in its place. She hasn’t been able to sleep since she was last here—I mean—”
“What in blazes do mean ?”
Mr. Starling was looking from one to the other, amused astonishment and admn-ation written large upon his face.
Oh I’m so glad you’ve come in! I think I can explain it better than Mr. Tucker. I’m Marian Pomeroy the same one that lost that awful bed about a month ago, and I wrote you, and nobody would do anything about it, and—”
“They wouldn’t, eh? Why wouldn’t they, I’d like o now . Tucker, why the devil didn’t you renort this matter to me at once? Don’t you know we can’t have people losing beds right out from under ’em on our trains Won’t do at all—should have told me right away!”
“I did and you said”
“I’m afraid, Tucker, you’ll never be much of a railroad man until you learn that the public must be served at all costs. Your bed, Miss Pomeroy, will be sent out to you without delay. Do you remember what make it was?”
The spring was just an ordinary three-quarter spring, but the mattress was a new Sleep-Easv mattress, speckled red with green polka dots on it.”*
‘ Uni—a Sleep-Easy mattress with green speckled poker-chips. I didn’t know they made them that
“Green polka dots, please! P-O-L-K-A—and
“Oh, polka! I thought that was a kind of dance! You know, now that you’ve described it, I believe we have that very bed down in our warehouse now ”
"Oh have you? Mr. Tucker told me the bed was lost. Can’t we go right down there now?”
Well er no—I wouldn’t advise it—pretty busy this time of day, especially Saturday. We’ll send the bed out this afternoon. Yes, come to think about it that K just what we’ll do. I’ll see to it personally!” Oh, if you will!”
“Where did you say the bed was to be ‘•eut. Boundary Bay?”
“Kayeff Cabin, Boundary Bay.”
“Oh yes. Don’t happen to know the Staffords, do you? They’re cousins of mine.”
“Well, 1 should think I did! They live next door! Isn’t that the funniest! Thank you just ever so
jy/IISS POMEROY’S floppy hat flopped cordially;
x she flashed a smile that seemed to be about equally divided between the Adjuster of Claims and the Second Assistant and was gone through the outer öffice like a vagrant breath of summer. G. Cadawalder looked at his superior and frowned. Mr. Starling returned the look, supplemented by crinkly lines of mirth in the corners of his eyes.
“I’ve always told you, Tucker, your mind works too slowly for a railroad man!”
“But hang it, Mr. Starling, you know as well as I do that bed is gone! And as for the one down in the warehouse—”
“My dear sir, we can’t afford to have people like Miss Pomeroy sore at us, not if it costs us fiftj dozen Freeze-Easy mattresses with speckled pink polka dots!”
Mr. Starling struck blithesomely into a yodel and passed on into the inner office, emerging a few moments later with his straw hat set rakishly on his head and his light summer overcoat over his arm.
“Bye-bye, Caddie, see you Monday.”
G. Cadawalder watched him dash joyously through the outer office, waving his hand as he went.
“Of all the poor nuts!” he growled, fervently jabbing his pencil into his mutilated blotter. “Of all the poor, white-livered fishes! Fell for her right away— let her wind him around her little finger! Sleep-Easy mattress and a bed spring down in our warehouse! Why, the poor boob is going down to buy one and send it to her. He’s a robber, that’s what he is—a regular he-vamp!”
G. Cadawalder Tucker sat long and wrathfully after
everyone else had left the office. Finally he jammed on bis hat, slammed the door and departed.
Monday morning Mr. Starling breezed into the office about ten o’clock in much the same humor he had been in when he had left Saturday noon—rather more so, if anything, G. Cadawalder thought, but he went on with his dictating with only a smug nod.
“ 'Lo Caddie! Have a good week-end? Great day, isn’t it? No more o’ this blue Monday stuff for me! I’ve discovered the antidote. By George, Caddie, I have. The great cure-all, the Fountain of Youth! What’ll you give me for a small vial of the essence, Caddie? Want some?” “Urn, what is it?” responded G. Cadawalder, unappreciatively. He was watching his superior out of glum eyes within which glowed a strange new fire.
“The simple life—the rough untutored wilds—back to nature—hew down a redwood before breakfast! Then bacon and eggs and flap-jacks and coffee, oceans of it steaming hot! Oh, I tell you it’s great stuff! You better try it if you want to come back ten years' younger!”
Starling gave G. Cadawalder a monstrous thwack on the back and went on into his own office, whistling.
“Say,” called G. Cadawalder presently, “how do you like sleeping on a corrugated floor?”
He waited for Mr. Starling’s reply as a jealous and distrustful lover waits for the words he expects but dreads to hear.
“Har! Har! You’re barking up the wrong tree, Caddie! Who said I went up into Fraser County?”
When the mail came Tuesday morning G. Cadawalder was Johnny-on-the-spot, just two seconds ahead of Starling, and had already noted the presence of the plain white envelope in the tell-tale bond that Miss Pomeroy used.
“I’ll tend to that correspondence hereafter, Caddie,” said the Chief Adjuster, disappearing into his office with the letter. G. Cadawalder waited, a faint mounting flicker of a smile beginning to tickle the corners of his mouth.
“Hey, why do you s’pose that bed didn’t go through Saturday afternoon?” Starling came forth, angrily brandishing the letter. “Here’s Miss Pomeroy writing about that bed again, and I sent it off in plenty of time for the two-twenty-five! Mitchell must have a deucedly rotten system. He can’t locate it anywhere along the line.”
CADAWALDER was industriously poking his VJ’ blotter full of jagged holes. He knew all about that bed that Starling had bought, knew that it hadn’t gone on the two-twenty-five, knew also thát it had cost him a crinkly five-spot to have it cached by an unscrupulous but obliging baggage man in an obscure corner of the baggage room. This knowledge gave him a temporary upper hand that intoxicated
“Maybe same thing happened again,” he advanced. “Like enough did. Prob’ly stalled somewhere up in the woods like the other one—nice place, I’m told: trees ’n’ axes ’n’ bacon ’n’ everything!”
Starling regarded the Second Assistant rather harder than' the remark called for.
“Say, who sold you a joke-license? Better get busy on something more important than that blotter, or you’ll get the air!”
“All right, Chief, just hand over that correspondence. I’ll-”
“The devil you will! W’hat you’d better do is to beat it right down town and have another one sent over to the baggage room consigned to Miss Pomeroy. In the meantime I’ll write her it’s coming.”
“I said you’d better order another bed sent up to her. I’ll pay for it, of course.”
“Say, what the-”
“You’re paid to do what I tell you, not to ask fool questions! I do the thinking in this plant.”
“Of course, but I couldn’t help wondering how the road could afford to send a whole flock of beds where only one grew before!”
Altogether G. Cadawalder was quite well satisfied with himself as he took his way jauntily toward the furniture store.
“Blocking the old boy at every turn—plays right into my hands easy as shooting fish! Thinks I’m going to send up another bed for him, huh ? I’ll knock him cold there, too! Thing to do is buy it with his money and send it in my name. Hold on though, maybe-”
G. Cadawalder hugged himself. He would purchase two beds, one with his own money for the inimitable, bedless Miss Pomeroy, which he would convey to her with his own hands the following Saturday, and one with Starling’s money, to be sent out to Starling’s own rooms! He pictured to himself Starling’s chagrin when he should discover the awful mistake, apparently committed by the furniture company, his wrath, his utter demolition. Oh, it would be sweet and poetic revenge!
G. Cadawalder regarded his two purchases with the cunning eye of one who is about to commit murder.
“This one,” he said, counting out Starling’s money painstakingly upon one of the beds; “this one is to go to Mr. Burton P. Starling, 4033 Westwood Avenue.” He gave the bed a final parting kick. “But don’t send it out till next Monday morning. Please be careful to get this right. You will, won’t you?”
'T'HE saleswoman scrawled a flying note on her memorandum of the purchase, smiled, poked her back hair, and shot him a glance of approval.
“We scarcely ever make mistakes like that, sir.”
G. Cadawalder graced her with one of his most seductive smiles.
“This one,” he said in tones as caressing as the love-song of a turtle-dove long inhibited; “this one you will address to Miss Pomeroy, Kayeff Cabin, Boundary Bay; to be delivered to the Central B.C. Railway Company’s station Saturday morning.” He laid three ten dollar bills tenderly upon the mattress, as one might strew flowers on the bier of a loved one. “You-— It is very important that you send these beds out just as I have directed.” G. Cadawalder sighed like a locomotive when the engineer releases the air.
Not until Saturday morning did he bethink himself of that first bed that Starling had sent—the one he had headed off and managed to have cached in a remote corner of the baggage room. He hurriedly called up his accomplice in crime, the obliging but unscrupulous clerk in the baggage room.
“Listen, Bill. This is George. Ya-ah. Uh-uh. Say, what happened to that bed billed to Miss Pomeroy at Boundary Bay? Sure, you know. That’s the one. There, is it? Well, let it go. Two of ’em? I know there is. It’s O.K. Sure! Ya-ah. Uh-huh.”
G. Cadawalder hung up, reassured. Everything was working out as he had planned. By the Great Jehoshophat, he’d fix Starling yet, he would! He left the office, carolling in a high rickety tenor the sentimental strains of “Do you ever think of me?"
Mid-afternoon found him nearing Boundary Bay in the choky asthmatic local that wound its way down the canyon toward Cowichan. He detrained with a hilarious mob of hikers that fairly overran him. He was glad when they scattered in rollicking groups to
disappear up the canyon, leaving him to the solitary pursuit of his own vexing problem. The bed, he made sure, had been put off as he had directed. It reposed amongst considerable other miscellaneous baggage against the side of the red three-sided shed that served as a station; the speckled red mattress with green polka dots lay securely rolled up near it. At last Miss Pomeroy was to get her delinquent bed!
“Hick town, I’d say,” commented G. Cadawalder disgustedly. “Where the deuce arc all the expressmen? Gee, a feller could die here and rot before they’d haul him away! Some town!”
AT LENGTH, despairing of rescue, he made inquiries at the store.
“Ain’t no regular expressman. Sometimes carry stuff for customers. Got about all we can do to-day, though. Nope, can’t do anything for yer. What was it y’ wanted Mis’ Emslie ? Yes, eggs is high to-day, higher’n a ridge-pole but they're good ’n’ fresh.”
G. Cadawalder waited fifteen minutes while the proprietor attended to the wants, spiritual, conversational, and edible, of a dozen discursive customers.
“Can you tell me,” he asked when the last of the horde had departed, “where a Miss Pomeroy lives?”
“A Miss Pomeroy? Which one do you mean, Marian or Alice?”
“Oh, are there two? I wanted Miss Marian Pome-
“Well, guess it don’t make no odds which y’want, seein’s both on ’em live together!” The proprietor slapped his thigh in exuberant appreciation of his own scintillant humor. “Yes, they live up the hill a spell. How fur should y’ jedge, Hank ? Little better’n a half a mile, ain’t it? Kayeff Cabin, they call it. Y’ go on up the road till y’ come to where it forks—
no, don t turn off there, jest keep on goin’ till y’ git to a big w’hite house around the bend; but ’tain’t the white house—her place is just t’other side of it, up a long flight o’ steps. Y’ can’t see the cabin from the road, but when y’ come t’ them steps y’re there. An when y hoof it up them steps y’re there too! Ain’t it the truth, Hank? How many be they, anyhow? Hank he counts them steps pretty near ev’ry day—like ’em, don’t y’, Hank?”
G. Cadawalder nodded.
1 hanks a lot. Sounds like a long way.”
“Wagon's goin’ up that way little later on, if you want to wait.”
“No, guess I’ll try to make it myself.”
G. Cadawalder went back to the station. The bed was just where he had left it. He sat down on the mattress and smoked a contemplative cigarette.
“If it isn’t more than half a mile, bet vou I could carry that bed.”
He tested his strength upon it, tossing it out at arm’s length and balancing the mattress on his opposite shoulder.
“Easy as shooting fish!” he assured himself. “Yes, sir, I’ll carry it. That’s just what I’ll do.”
There was something about the idea that thrilled the very cockles of his soul. In town, now, he would not have considered such a thing, but out here in the wilderness men bucked the forces of nature with bare hands and heaving shoulders. What was that
line the poet sang? “None but the braveNone
but the brave-something or otherOh, yes,
None but the brave deserve the fair!”
G. Cadawalder started off valiantly, the bed spring balanced neatly over his right eyebrow, his left hand gripping the corded mattress as a fearful mother grips her fond offspring.
( “Simple enough!” he chortled. “Old Starling was right; it is great stuff. But I’ll have it on him now, the old corrugated rhinoceros!”
'P'HE road crossed a small creek, ducked into a ravine thickcted with madronos and bays, and presently made sharply upward. About him, invisible but unmistakably audible, the voices „f untrammelled hilarity echoed through the woodland He paused to rest, mopping nis forehead.
“Jerusalem, that bed is heavy! Longest half mile I ever travelled! That old crab at the store had some idea of distance!”
His appearance had suffered on the way up. and he took steps to repair it. Presently he moved on but more slowly. The bed was no longer jauntily perched athwart his right eyebrow but hung sagping from his shoulder. It had developed, he found, an annoying trick of bumping along the ground, swaying sideways until it cracked his shins, and every now and then attacking him unawares from the rear. The mattress had grown as heavy and unwieldy as a mountain of lead. Ho paused often.
By the time he reached the sign “Kayeff Cabin,” done in rustic letters taekc-d on a tree near the road, he was about done himself and fooling as wobbly and rustic as the letters of the sign. G. Cadawaldor’s eyes climbed step upon step up the path that reached interminably into the shadows -step upon slop until the eye grew sick with climbing and the heart palpitated with the effort. He could never make the top without changing his tactics, lie sat down to think.
Ilclow iiim sounded the long wail of a motor climbing the grade on high. Would somebody catch him there at the foot, of the steps in Ids ignominious plight? lie hastily undid the mattress, spread it upon the spring, and tied it with the rope. Then he tilted up one end. hacked into the centre of It, Continued on page 62
At Owner’s Risk
Continued from page 13
and balancing the whole ungainly load with outstretched arms on his shoulders and head, started upward at top
Just as he hit the steps he heard a voice behind him—a voice that fell upon his ears in harmonious accord with its sylvan surroundings. It was soft and low and bell-like, and it was obviously addressing him.
“Aren’t you—aren’t you attempting a bit too much?”
G. Cadawalder was indeed. No one knew that lamentable fact better than he. He stopped dead still, halted in his tracks by the compelling music of that nymph-like voice. Unhappily the bed kept on, catapulting over his head and landing bottom upward on the path just in time to receive G. Cadawalder in its exact centre.
“Do you always — er — dismount as neatly as that?”
It was not a nymph upon whom G. Cadawalder’s astounded eyes gazed. A slim, khaki-clothed deity of the woods, rather, with trim boots and a rakish little hat. Brown hair, brown eyes that smiled a rakish smile that could not offend, brown lustrous skin through which glowed delicate sun-kissed tints.
G. Cadawalder sprang to his feet.
“Awfully clumsy brute!” he murmured. “Sorry to make such a mess of things. Bit of a climb. Is it much farther ?”
“The cabin ? Two hundred and sixteen steps straight up.”
G. Cadawalder groaned.
“Is it really necessary to carry that awful bed up there? Why don’t you get someone to help you ? Are you going to Kayeff?” The questions fell imperiously from the lips of the slim goddess into the dark pool of G. Cadawalder’s perplexity, and as inevitably as the ripples following thereafter came his replies.
“Yes. I—I—can’t very well.” How empty and idiotic his explanation sounded! “You see, it’s a kind of quest.”
“A quest? Why do you have to carry the absurd thing, then?”
“That’s part of it. You see I set out-”
“You shouldn’t start anything you can’t finish!”
“Oh, but I can finish it! Watch me.”
’ CADAWALDER made a preliminary movement toward the bed.
“Don’t, please! I saw you once. You looked like-”
“Go on!” pleaded G. Cadawalder ruefully. “I know it. I looked like a peddler with a bale of hay for a pack!”
The brown goddess shook her head, laughing.
“No, you lookedDid you ever
see a tiny little ant struggling along with a grasshopper on his back ? That’s the way you looked, only more so!”
“Thanks! And I feel just the way that) ant would feel ;if a butterfly should trip him up and begin to call him names!”
“I didn’t! Besides I’m not and-”
“Neither am I!”
“Well, we’re quits anyhow. Still I don’t see why you’re taking the bed up I those steps.”
“It belongs to Miss Pomeroy.”
“That’s funny. Oh, that’s awfully funny!”
“What is? Do you know her?”
“A little. Are you—are you sure she wants it?”
“Of course she wants it! Hasn’t she been writing us about it for weeks? I’m the Assistant Adjuster of Claims for the Central B. C. Railway Company.”
“Oh! Do they usually-?”
“No, they don’t! This is a special case—a very special ease.”
“It seems to be!” The words trilled high and clear with mirth. “You certainly do a good job when you start out to, Mr. Tucker! I suppose it’s the excellent example of your chief.” “You know Mr. Starling?” G. Cadawalder’s bewildered ears were playing him strange tricks. Could it be that
this slim creature-
“Oh my, yes! That is sister does. She knows him rather better than I! He was out last week to adjust the matter of that bed and it turned out that Bob and he—that’s my brother, you know—were classmates at college and of
course sister being older than I-
I meanReally I didn’t mean-
Oh, I think I must be going!”
“Hold ,on!” called G. Cadawalder desperately. “Did old Starling-” G.
Cadawalder’s castles which he had built so eagerly were crashing about him. And up the path like a startled deer fled the slim, brown-clad girl who had shattered them. Had she? Perhaps, after all, he had been too ready to read into her words a meaning that was not intended. Perhaps his quest was not altogether turned awry. As the slender figure disappeared among the trees G. Cadawalder took up the pursuit, leaving the bed-spring and mattress in the middle of the road.
He charged up the steps at his best speed, as nimbly, he encouraged himself, as that lithe figure he pursued. He had no breath for reflection, but there flashed across his mind as he leaped along the pictures one sees on vases, of agile Greek youths pursuing slender maidens through wooded solitudes such as these. His picture did not include the unwieldy thing of wire and felt that lay at the foot of the trail!
But his speed did not equal that of the girl whom he pursued. She did not come into view again and he presently found himself within eye-shot of the cabin, which marked, he told himself, the end of his quest; but whether it housed also the slim goddess who had fled from him he could not conjecture. On the porch he caught, as he approached, the gay chatter of
many voices and he thought he heard his name. Miss Pomeroy met him, advancing a few steps down the path and smiling in a most friendly fashion.
“This is certainly most unexpected, Mr. Tucker.”
G. Cadawalder’s mercury leaped twenty degrees upward. This was worth while!
“I have brought your bed.”
Miss Pomeroy’s face betrayed more than astonishment; she seemed to be choking back uncontrollable mirth.
“Not my bed!” she managed after a considerable interval. “My bed came last week, and those—those over there came this morning while ,ve were all up the Ridge trail!”
SHE pointed toward the back of the cabin where two bed-springs and mattresses leaned lonesomely against the wood pile.
“Through Mr. Starling’s efforts my own bed was found and I wrote him
andOh, Mr. Tucker, you don’t
moan to say you have brought another bed?”
G. Cadawalder nodded.
“It’s down there!” He pointed confusedly in the direction from which he had come. At last the forces set in motion by Starling and himself were working simultaneously to his destruction. If only Starling were there to share his ignominy!
“I—maybe if youGood lord!”
His eyes ran wildly over the group on the porch. The centre of that group
--its hub, its star, its very core, was
the Chief Adjuster himself, laughing harder than any of them.
“ ’Lo, Caddie, where’d you raise that crop of beds? Nice little investment for a single man!”
Miss Pomeroy placed a restraining hand on Starling’s arm.
“Don’t Burt, please!”
She turned to G. Cadawalder.
“I’m sure I don’t know who’s responsible for all these beds, Mr. Tucker, but they seem to have been brought at owner’s risk.” A reminiscent twinkle shone in her eyes. “Won’t you join us ? Sister is just about to dish up one of her famous fried chicken dinners.” He looked up. Miss Pomeroy and the Chief Adjuster were framed in the doorway in a picture that his battered heart told him was destined to be permanently domestic.
G. Cadawalder wanted to flee, but behind that group he caught a glimpse of the slim brown khaki-clad figure, with a rakish little hat and eyes that smiled but did not offend.
“I’ll be tickled to death to come—at owner’s risk!” he said.