Remember Darwin, and Shinny Up!
NORMA PHILLIPS MUIR
In which Peter finds out why Pokey put her mother-in-law on the stove.
PETER, is anything bothering you?” I inquired as he slouched lower in his chair and gave another convulsive sigh.
This was the second successive night on which he had come home looking like the weather man’s prediction of overcast with occasional thunderstorms, and he was noticeably off his feed and underslung in his vocal organs.
“Tell mother all about it,” I insisted.
“What nonsense is this?” he said coldly; “there is nothing the matter.”
“You might as well say Ts this a dagger I see before me?’—your facial expression is Shakespeare’s own conception of tragedy,” I retorted. “Spill it.”
“I tell you there’s nothing wrong.” he repeated. “Nothing.”
“Ever hear of Ananias?” I asked, and after that conversation lagged for a while.
Then Peter sighed again, a long rattlv one that must have caused considerable disturbance to his inner anatomy. I rose and went over to the piano, but Peter didn’t even notice that I had moved until I began to play “One Sweetly Solemn Thought,” and then he grunted and asked me what the big idea was. /
“Oh, my husband,” I replied in moved tones, “I once read that the successful wife was the one who merged her will in that of her husband, and if your wish is to be sad, and all that sort of thing, I just want to be one with you in thought and spirit,” and then I played the second verse.
“There’s a funeral in the church to-morrow morning,” I suggested,
“but I am sure you could see the corpse to-night if you went over to the house.” “Can it,” he growled.
“Pm only trying to think of things to please you,” I said gently, “and if you’d rather just walk quietly in the cemetery I am ready to go with you.”
“Shut up,” he roared.
“Well, anyway, that’s a morerhealthy'sign,” j decided; “what’ll we play now?”
“Pretend you’re a dummy,” suggested Peter, and after that there was a long silence.
“Maeterlinck says of silence that two souls, admirable both and of equal power, may yet give birth to a hostile silence,” I remarked. “He says that the reservoirs of silence lie far above the reservoirs of.thought, and that the strange resultant brew is either sinisterly bitter or profoundly sweet,” I continued; “he says every silence differs. . . .”
“Pokey, if you don’t shush I’ll gag you,” threatened Peter, laughing. “Honestly, honey, I haven’t wanted to worry you, and there’s something Pve got to tell you that’ll throw a quoit in the egg-basket.”
“Is it money, Peter?” I asked, sobered at once.
“No -it’s mother,” he said.
“She’s not coming here, Peter?” I hollered, and Peter patted my shoulder and nodded dismally.
“May the Lord have mercy on my soul,” I asked solemnly. “When?”
“Next week, for a month,” he said, and heaved a sigh of relief that the worst was over as far as breaking
the news was concerned.
"Well,” I said feebly, “I know just how Job felt when he found the thirteenth boil.”
"After all, Ruth,” began Peter, “she is—”. “Somebody’s mother, boys,” I finished, “I know. You can't help it, Peter.
He regarded me in silence for a moment and then
“Anything particular you’d like to do to-night, Ruth?” “Yes,” I said faintly, “I feel as though I need air— air and rest. Let’s drive around a few blocks, buy a lot of candy, some salted almonds, all the new magazines and go to bed and read. Anything more strenuous, after the shock Pve had, would kill me.”
Peter was very tender with me. He bought six magazines and a box of luscious chocolates, and we went for a short drive through the park, after which 1 began to feel better, and more as though I could face my trials.
I ve a good notion to leave the bus in front of the house to-night,” he declared, when we arrived home. “Doctors leave their cars for hours, and the chances are a cop won’t be along anyway.”
“On your head be it,” I said. “I don’t have to pay the fine.”
“I’ll take a chance,” decided Peter, “but I’ll use the oilburnër in the tail light and not burn my battery out.”
Peter was at the end of the car playing with matches which the gentle breeze blew out as fast as he lighted them, when a car came along the street and swerved in behind Peter, with a squawk of the siren and a sudden grinding of brakes.
“Jump, Peter,” I hollered.
“Holy Hannibal,” yelled Peter, and leaped for the sidewalk, dropping his match box. He didn’t have time to decide on his direction and as a result he charged straight into me, knocking me into the tree with such force that my teeth jingled.
“Gosh, that was a close one,” he gasped. “Sorry, darling.”
“My teesh ish all loosh,” I protested, feeling them, but Peter was walking belligerently toward the car which had come to a full stop.
“What’s the big idea, you poor—” he began, and then stopped so suddenly that I thought paralysis had set in.
“My son,” said a voice from within the car. “Is this how you greet your mother?”
“Oh, death, where is thy sting?” I queried.
“Mother!” breathed Peter.
“Exactly,” she said; “who is that with you?”
“Ish’s I,” I managed to articulate, still holding my teeth in place. “What happened to the driver?—you stopped as though'you were on the edge of a precipice and the devil was waiting below,” I stormed. “My teesh—”
“Ruth,” said Mother Ronald, “I didn’t know the number and just remembered the house when I saw it —the driver is not to blame. Help me, like a good child.”
Peter opened the door of the car and I stepped up, with my arms held stiffly out from my body, for I knew why I was summoned.
From the upholstery of the door Mother Ronald removed the pins which held a blouse and two collars, and these she spread over my receptive arm. There was a silence followed by a wild yell from the chauffeur.
“Sorry, my man, I guess that pin touched you,” said Mother Ronald.
“Touched me—damn near ruined me,” growled the man, and I breathed a prayer of thanks for such swift retribution.
“Peter, open that bag, and hand me the book on top,” directed Mother Ronald, and then she reached out and put a silk skirt and another blouse over my other arm.
“There wasn’t anything else I thought would crease badly,” she stated to me as she smoothed them. “I had them on the back of the seat in the train and I don’t think they’re mussed much.”
DETER was shaking with silent mirth, but I was mad. My mother-in-law always makes me mad about three minutes after she has arrived.
“You read that, young man,” she said, handing the driver a sheet of paper; “it tells the fearful fate of a man who had an unguarded tongue.”
Before the man couldexpress himself Peter paid him off, and I led the way into the house.
“My dear child, you’re getting quite fat, aren’t you?” exclaimed Mother Ronald, who knows well enough that my secret ambition is to be thin enough to wear stripes going around.
“Yes, indeed,” I said gayly, wanting to bite her, “freedom from work and worry, yeast cakes and olive oil are doing their work.” “Do you mean to say you are trying to gain weight?” she asked.
“Certainly,” I lied, “the age of the bean pole is a thing of the past. Paris likes ’em short and fat, and I’m all for style. Beside,” I added, “you never saw a picture. of an angel with angles, now did you, mother?”
“I don’t wish to discuss celestial beings in connection with so light a subject,” she said firmly.
“But you just said I was heavy,” I reminded her; “come on to bed, we’re both tired and need sleep.”
“You’ve had this room done over, haven’t you?” she said the moment I put the light on.
“Yes,” I said carelessly, “I was tired of the pink paper—it was so infantile.”
“Was it faded or dirty?” she asked ominously.
“No, I just thought I’d like a room done in grey and gold,” I said.
“Ruth,” she said, sitting down for a session, “I don’t want to interfere, but I think it is my duty to talk to you.”
“I know you do, but wait until morning and I’ll pay attention,” I said. “I’d think I’d dreamed it if you said it now—-sort of talking through your hat and all that sort of thing. There’s a bathroom opening off your room from that door,” I added, “and if there’s anything you need call me.”
“When was that bathroom put in?” she asked.
“Let me think,” I stalled, “somewhere between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries—roughly about 1923.”
“Peter gave it to me for Christmas and it’s paid for and the receipt is on the file,” I stated definitely. “Sleep tight.” And when I got outside the door I made a face at her and hoped she’d wake up dumb.
'C'OR some time Peter had had an out-of-town trip -*• hanging over his head, and when he came home the next night he announced that he would be going in a couple of weeks.
“Peter Ronald, you are not,” I cried.
“Business, Pokey,” he said, “I can’t help it.”
“Business nothing, it’s just a chance to escape,” I said hotly. “I think you’re a rummy if you go while Mother Ronald is here and leave me alone with her.”
We had a little argument over it, but Peter won, and I was forced to face the prospect of spending two unrelieved days and nights with my mother-in-law.
“At least you can take her off my hands for one evening,” I said. “I’ve got something to do to-night, and if she’s here to ask questions and give advice I’ll go mad, kill her first and then commit suicide,” “You exaggerate worse than any child,” said Peter coldly—he always gets cold and distant when his mother has been with us a few days—“but since it seems so important I’ll take mother to that concert she was speaking of.”
“Hurrah,” I yelled, “Music hath charms—maybe she’ll come home cured! Oh tralala!”
“My child, why are you so noisy—so irresponsible?” asked a voice in the doorway. “I fear for your children.” “There are others in graver danger,” I said pointedly. “I am merely happy because Peter has promised to bring me a pair of diamond ear-rings from Ottawa—he’s going down day after to-morrow.”
“Diamond ear-rings”—she ejaculated with upraised hands—“if Peter were to spend that money in taking out a life insurance policy he would be wiser—•” she paused suggestively, but neither Peter nor I came across.
“I can’t bear to think of life insurance policies—they would only come when Peterwas dead—and the earrings will vamp him when he’s living,” I giggled. “Big ones, Peter—set in platinum.”
“Oh, can it,” growled Peter. “Mother, I’d like to hear that concert at the Arena to-night, let’s go.” “And Ruth?” she beamed.
“Count me out,” I said. “I love music, but the highbrows give me the Willies—anyway I have some— work I want to do.”
In another half hour they were away, and then I hustled. I had determined, ever since Peter raved so over the home-made grape wine we had at Marion’s, to make some, and I had had the juice in the cellar for days, but hadn’t been able, since my non-alcoholic mother-in-law arrived, to finish the process. Marion was away, but I used Peter’s recipe for root beer and it tasted pretty fine when I had it ready for the bottles, although the yeast was a bit strong. I used a cake to a gallon, and two pounds of sugar.
“The yeast won’t taste. at all when it is ready to drink,” I told Pansy who helped me, “but it will put a kick in it to which a mule’s kick, as Peter says, will seem like a caressing breath.”
“What’d the Duchess think about it?” asked Pansy, who insists upon calling my mother-in-law the Duchess behind her back.
“I think it would be as well to say nothing about it to her,” I intimated.
“I getchya,” grinned Pansy. “Say, wouldn’t she be a howler if we ever got her spiflicated.”
“Pansy,” I said sternly, “you mustn’t be disrespectful. I cannot conceive of my mother-in-law under the influence of liquor.”
“Just the same she’d be funny,” insisted Pansy, but as I didn’t answer her, the subject was dropped, and Pansy and I had a half-an-hour to spare after we had hammered the corks into the necks of the bottles. I did that, for I’ve a pretty good eye, and I was afraid Pansy might make a mistake and hit the bottle by mistake.
“That gives us sixteen bottles,
Pansy,” I said surveying them with pride. “Won’t Mr. Ronald be surprised.”
T HAD used pints, for I thought -*• they would go a little further than the quarts, and then, too, I thought the smaller quantities would be ready sooner.
They were all arranged on the shelf in the fruit cellar, and I was ready for bed when Peter and Mother Ronald came home.
“Well, how are the jazz hounds?”
I called out, and Mother Ronald came into the room and kissed me good-night. “It was so uplifting,
Ruth—I wished for you,” she said.
“I was quite taken out of myself.”
“I wish I had gone, now,” I said, but it went right over her head, and only Peter, who frowned ferociously, got the drift of my remark.
“What were you doing?” he asked when we were alone.
.“Secret,” I said laconically.
“Every time you have a secret it means trouble,” worried Peter.
“Come on, Pokey, spill it.”
“Not a drop,” I giggled; “you’ll find out all in good time.”
A week passed uneventfully and soon the time came for Peter to go away on his visit.
“I’ll telephone you on Sunday night and let you know when I’ll be coming home,” he said as he kissed me goodbye. “Take the best care of' yourself and the kids, and don’t fight with mother—remember it is r-a child’s duty—•”
“Sufficiency,” I cried,, “don’t play poker and don’t
get tight.” Then as I saw Peter’s mother’s shadow in the doorway, I added, “if you can possibly get hold of a bottle, bring it home.”
“Ruth,” said Mother Ronald, after Peter went, “do you drink?”
“Like a fish,” I said, “especially in hot weather.”
“I mean spirituous liquors,” she said, “do you?” ,
“Occasionally I like something with a stinger in it,” I said gravely, “but I rarely become intoxicated, in . fact I never let myself go except on Christmas and New Year’s. Why?”
“Such an example to your children,” she moaned, “such a horrible", horrible example.”
“Have you any in the house how, Ruth?” she asked sternly.
“A small flask of whisky for medicinal purposes; it hasn’t been opened in two months,” I said truthfully, and as Joan began to howl at that moment I went to her and the subject was not resumed.
I was very tired, for it required no' mean effort to keep the conversational ball rolling all day with Mother Ronald, and at the same time steer clear of differences of opinion, so I must have gone to sleep right ¿way. I awakened with a jump, and the uncanny feeling that there was somebody in the room, and opened my eyes to see the gentle figure of my mother-in-law silhouetted at the foot of the bed.
“R-r-r-uth,” she chattered, “t-t-there’s s-s-omebody down cellar, two of them, fighting, and—■”
“Bang,” went the report of a pistol right beneath us, and I came out of bed with a flop.
“Stay here for a minute,” I whispered, and I stole down the hall and into the kitchen. It required every bit of nerve I had, with the queerest noises going on and not the sound of a voice, to venture near the cellar door, but I did, turned the key in the lock stealthily, and then shot the lower bolt.
Just as I did so a second report sounded, and the bullet hit the floor.
“Oh, my babies,” I thought, and rushing into the bedroom, I beckoned my shivering mother-in-law to follow me, and we ran for the nursery. We had just gained it when a third shot rang out.
“Oh, Lord help us,” screamed Mother Ronald, and stumbled against me.
“Are you shot?” I gasped.
“No, I don’t think so—” •
“Then stand up,” I said sternly; “this is no time to be a clinging vine, we’vé got to think of the children.” . “What’re you going to do?” she whispered.
“Get ’em where a bullet can’t hit ’em,” I cried. “Quick, take that side of the bed.”
She grabbed where I pointed, and with the little bed between us, and the sleeping Cherubs in it, we hurried to the kitchen again.
“W-w-w-hy here?” quavered Mother Ronald, as a dull crash sounded almost beneath us.
“Up,” I cried. “Lift it,” and with her help we elevated the little bed until it rested above the plates of the big electric stove.
“B-b-b-ut Ruth,” she began.
“Up you get,” I said, pushing her, “put your feet
over the edge and sit on the oven-^bullets can’t pierce iron.”
“I can’t do it,” she sobbed.
“Climb,” I said, “remember Darwin and shinny up —you’ve gotta.” And with me shoving, she finally managed to get a stomach rest on the oven and pull herself up. All the time there were such queer noises in the cellar, and as Mother Ronald made the grade another report sounded, and again the bullet hit the floor.
Just then there was a rush through the hall, and grabbing the toaster fork from the tray I made for the door with it, as Pansy, white as wax and with eyes distended, catapulted into the kitchen.
“Well, I’ll be de--what the--”
“Pansy,” I cried, “get up on the kitchen cabinet^ quick, it’s zinc lined, and bullets can’t go through.”
“Bullets,” yelled Pansy, hopping for the cabinet, “what the—” but I had vanished hall-ward, to ’phone for the police.
“Come quick, there’s an awful fight going on in the cellar,” I cried, giving the address, “five shots have been fired and we are three women alone with twins.”
Then I grabbed Peter’s mashie, and hopping nimbly from chair to chair I gained the kitchen cabinet beside Pansy and listened. Incredibly the children had not awakened, but slept on like angels, while the sound of deep, hissing breathing, an occasional crash, and another shot rang in our ears.
“How many are there?” asked Pansy.
“I don’t know, there must be at least two,” I said, and then we all drew our knees up, as the pistol spoke again.
“My Heavens, I can’t stand this,” I-whispered. “I’m. going down.”
“Like blazes y’are,” said Pansy, “say—has the old lady gone cookoo?”
I became aware then that part of the noise I had been attributing to the marauders in the cellar was due to my mother-in-law, who, perched on the top of the oven had suddenly decided that the situation was serious enough for the use of religion, only she had got mixed, and instead of a heart-prayer for help, the old lady was murmuring the prayer for the dead:
“We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can take nothing out,” she muttered, “. . . Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live and is full of misery.”
. “Cut it out, Mother,” I said, “you aren’t dead yet, and if you were it wouldn’t be up to you to do the shouting. Listen . . . here are the cops—now you, two, stay put—this is my job,” and hopping off the zinctopped table section (and it was cold enough to keep one from going to sleep) I scooted through the hall, and opened the front door quietly.
“They’re still at it,” I cried, “listen to that—” as another report, followed by a crash and a groan from the kitchen, sounded.
“Where do we get down cellar, lady?” asked the sergeant—and he eocked his revolver and followed me down the hall in a crouching position, followed by two others.
“Through the kitchen,” I said, and led him into it.
Just as we entered Mother Ronald proclaimed: “In the midst of life we are in death,” and I saw the sergeant hesitate a moment.
“What’s the big idea?” he asked, his eye taking in the panorama.
IT DID look sort of funny, come to think of it, to see the small cot with two slumbering babies in it on top of the stove, and perched above that again on the oven, with her bony ankles overhanging the cot, an angular old woman with a nightcap over one ear, who greeted you with the burial service, while on the kitchen cabinet squatted a body topped by a human map of Ireland and a bobbed head.
“Are you sure it’s burglars?” he asked.
“Sure, we aren’t as crazy, as we look, but with bullets hitting the floor I thought I’d better get them in a safe place, and the shots won’t go through metal, see?” I said. “Hadn’t you better start down? I’m rather anxious to have this over with.”
Very cautiously they unlocked and unbolted the door, and then, the three crouching figures, all armed with cocked pistols, disappeared from our sight.
“Gee, if it ain’t jest like a grand movie,” giggled Pansy, “except that the Duchess looks like something that otta be in the zoo."
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“Hush,” I said, “I want to listen.” For a moment dead silence reigned, and then came a salvo of shots, a yell, and after that a deep groan and silence.
“They’ve killed the gang,” yelled Pansy; “send fer re-inforcemints.”
“I’m going to faint,” said Mother, feebly.
“If you do you’ll break your neck,” I warned her.
“I’m cold, Ruthie,” she whispered. “Well, you can reach the switch; light the oven,” I suggested cruelly.
FROM down cellar there came the reassuring sound of voices, then came another shot or so, and after that heavy steps mounting the stairs.
“I’m going to faint,” wailed Mother and then she hollered like a loon, for Pansy, who could reach the .sink, had thrown a glass of water full in her face.
“You little devil,” she shrieked, “I’ll—”
Pansy winked broadly at me, while Mother spluttered and gasped and chattered, but before there was time for anything else the police squad were in the kitchen. The two juniors were guiding the officer, and at first glance I thought the top of his head was shot off.
Mother Ronald took one look and buried her face in her hands, while Pansy with a shriek of “ ‘Sufferin’ Saints,” rolled off the table and began to pull towels from the linen drawer.
“Shot,” I screamed, and to my amazement it was the sergeant who in muffled tones answered me.
At the sound of his voice I went nearer, and then I saw, and smelled. It wasn’t blood—that smeared him—it was what in War days would have been called camouflage—for the face and head of the sergeant were covered with a nauseous mixture of tomato and yeasty grape wine— so that he looked like a cross between a shell victim and the vat of a canning factory. The other two guided him to the sink and turned the tap on his head.
“You are under arrest,” he said thickly. “I am?” I gasped. “What have I done?”
“You’ve been making fermented wine,” he said, “and unless you’ve a permit you’ll just be coming along with me.”
“My grape cordial,” L gasped.
“Cordial nothing,” he growled, clasping his head, “I don’t call it cordial; it’s got a kick to it like a wild elephant!”
“But I didn’t know,” I protested. “Ignorance of the law’s no excuse,” he announced; “you’d better get dressed and this officer’ll take you down. We’ll take the car and drive to a doctor. I’ll have to have my head sewn up.”
“But what hurt your head?” I asked. “Only the upper half of a bottle travelling at the rate of sixty miles an hour,” he said grimly, “don’t let anybody in that wine cellar until the rest of the bottles
have exploded—it’s dangerous. We’lB send a man along in the morning to knock the tops off the rest.”
“Couldn’t I pay a fine or anything?” I asked.
“Somebody might go bail for you,” he suggested.
“Mother—” I said, turning to hen.
“I wash my hands of the whole affair,” she said, “this will be a lesson to you not to indulge in liquor and lies. I won’t gobail.”
“Then I’ll have to go to jail,” I said.. “Pansy, you take care of the children, and I’ll be back when I get here. I’ll drive you: dowm,” I said carelessly to the officer, and' then I hurried into my clothes, wondering; all the time what Peter would say to this..
“You might help me take the babies, back to the nursery,” I suggested when I went to the kitchen and found the officer who was to take me to headquarterswaiting there. Mother Ronald was still on the roost, but Pansy had fled.
He good-naturedly helped me with thecot, and then we went back for Mother Ronald.
“Come on down, lady,” said the man,, holding out a tentative hand.
“I’ll come down when you are out of here, and not before,” she said tartly. “I. may not look like it, and under the circumstances you have found me,lit may behard to believe, but I am a lady.”
“Come on down while I am here to helpyou,” I said; “you’ll break your neck if you try it alone.”
“Then I’ll be saved the disgrace of what , is to come,” she said, so we perforce left?, her.
I ran Brutus out of the garage, and then' with the law beside me I let her out.
“Guess we can go more than twenty at this hour,” I asked, and he nodded... I was mad—it was bad enough to lose alb my wine and tomatoes, without being fined into the bargain, and I knew Peter would simply be wild about it.
“Will this have to get into the papers?”' I asked, as we took a corner on two wheels..
“Not necessarily,” was 'the non-committal answer. “Say, lady, aren’t yom going pretty fast?”
“I can’t get there and home again too> fast to suit me,” I said, “but if you’renervous you can get out,” and I put thebrake on with a jolt that nearly sent him* . through the wind shield.
“I’ll stick,” he gasped. “But go easy,. I’m fond of scenery.”
1SAW he was pretty nervous, so abouttwo blocks from the station I swerved! up on to the sidewalk, missed a telegraph; pole by two inches and then slowed downto a decorous ten miles an hour.
“I used to be a taxi driver,” I said, just, to see what would happen, but the man' was too far gone to answer. He was hanging on for dear life, and his eyes protruded like a tickled toad’s, while his face was= pale green.
“I’ll drive you home, after we’ve settled! this,” I offered.
“Not unless I’m paralyzed you won’t,”" he said. “I’d leave the force if I thought there’d be much of this work in it.”
We went inside, and the man at the desk who had received the sergeant’s report over the phone looked very stern.
“So you’ve been making fermented wine?” he greeted me.
“No, sir,” I said, “at least I didn’t know I was. I wanted to surprise my husband, so I used his root beer recipe, only instead of using the beer extract I used grape juice.”
“Great Scott,” he grunted, “how much yeast?”
“A cake to a gallon, and two pounds of sugar,” I said glibly. “I honestly don’t see how the corks could have come out, for I put them in with the hammer.”
“With—put the corks in tight?” he babbled—and then he put his head down on the desk and laughed and laughed, and seeing a ray of hope, I winked at the officer.
“I surely wouldn’t have sent for the police if I’d been conscious of doing wrong, now would I,” I argued; “they really sounded like pistol shots, and it was all I could do to get my babies and my motherin-law on the stove.”
“I really .can't see—•” he began, when the ’phone at his elbow rang and he answered it.
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“Yes—just a moment,” he said, and handed the receiver to me.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hullow,” came Pansy’s voice, “say, Mrs. Ronald, the Duchess has changed her mind, she says she’ll go bail for you.”
Something in Pansy’s voice—a triumphant lilt, caught my attention. “What made her change her mind, Pansy?” I asked.
“I did,” stated Pansy grimly. “Come on and get the dough,” and the ’phone clicked.
“I can get bail,” I suggested doubtfully.
“The whole thing has been a mistake on your part,” gasped the man at the desk who was still wiping his eyes. “If you will guarantee to pay for the medical attention the sergeant requires, I think that is all that will be necessary.”
“Do you mind if I sit down for a moment?” I asked, for I felt a bit weak, now that it was all over.
The telephone rang again, and once more it was handed to me.
“My busy night,” I said conversationally as I took it.
“Ruth,” roared Peter. “What’ve you done now?”
“Why, when did you get home, dear?” I asked sweetly.
“I’m not home, I’m at the station, I telephoned from here to prepare you for my arrival and Pansy told me you were at the police station and that there’d been a helluva fight.”
“Well, it’s all right and I’m ready to come home, dear,” I said meekly. “It was just a little misunderstanding.”
“You wait there and I’ll come «for you,” said Peter sternly, so perforce I sat down again, and this time my knees really were knocking together, for I knew that Peter was furious.
He came striding white-faced into the station in about twenty minutes, and entirely ignoring me strode up to the man at the desk.
“What is the charge this time?” he demanded of the man.
“The charge is withdrawn,” was the answer.
“What was it?” he said.
“Making fermented wine without a license,” acknowledged the law.
“Good Heavens,” gasped Peter.
“But Peter—” I began eagerly.
“Just you wait,” he said grimly.
“It was all a mistake,” said the officer kindly. “There will be no publicity, sir, and you are only liable for the medical charges arising out of the sergeant’s wound.”
“Wound!” hollered Peter. “What hit Jiim?”
“Merely a fragment of flying glass,’’ I said brightly. “Let’s go home, Peter, I’m worried about Mother. I left her on the stove.”
“My sad Aunt, which one of us is loco?” roared Peter, and the officer put his head down on the desk and shook with laughter.
“Could we give you a lift home?” I asked the man who had come with me from the house.
“Not while I’m conscious,” he grinned, and so with a bright nod and good night to each of them I led Peter, still babbling out of the station and put him in the car.
“Not a word until we get home,” I said, and then I stepped on her. Something told me that the night was not over yet, but when we reached the house it was in darkness, and my rush into the kitchen was not rewarded by the sight of my mother-in-law on the stove. Evidently she had descended in safety and sought her bed.
“Now,” said Peter, when we reached our room and I sank wearily into a chair,
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‘ ‘let me have the whole story of this night’s work, and—let there be no equivocation.” “Travelling certainly is an educator,” I remarked, and then I told him the entire story. Long before I had finished he was,, rolling on the bed, and when I tried, in my' poor weak way to describe how the sergeant looked when he came up cellar, Peter nearly passed away.
“Oh, Pokey, this is priceless,” he gurgled. “But why in the name of common sense did you hammer the corks in the bottles?”
“Ignorance, darling, plumb ignorance,” I admitted. “Listen, there’s mother calling.”
We both went to her.
“I insist that you discharge that profane, wicked girl,” she cried, the moment we entered the room.
“Do you know what she did to me?” My heart sank as I acknowledged my ignorance.
“My religious principles would not allow me to go bail for Ruth on such a charge,” she said, addressing Peter, “and after Ruthie and the policemen had left and I called Pansy to help me down she refused to do it unless I would allow her to telephone that I had changed my mind.” “Good for her,” I giggled.
“Ruth,” said Peter sternly, but there was a twinkle in his eye.
“Don’t interrupt me,” commanded Mother Ronald.
“I refused steadfastly until Pansy threatened me,” she continued.
“What—?” I cried.
“Yes—and not only threatened, but put her threat into execution,” went on Mother Ronald.
“What do you mean?” said Peter.
“I couldn’t get off the oven without help,” said Mother Ronald, “and when I steadily refused, that girl threatened to turn the heat on the oven—and did so.” “Another Christian martyr,” I said solemnly.
“Well—it seemed very foolish to allow myself to be injured—perhaps— “Ruined,” I interpolated.
“So I gave in at last,” concluded Mother Ronald. “But even then she’d hardly let me down until you came for fear I’d change my mind.”
“When I come home from the office tomorrow night we will thrash the whole thing out with Pansy,” promised Peter, and then he put his arm around me to lead me back to our room, and I could feel him quaking.
“Just a moment—” cried Mother Ronald. “Whatever you see fit to do to Pansy will satisfy me, my son, but I shall not be here to-morrow night. I leave for New York in the morning.”
Peter did not answer her, but when we turned on the light in our room I noticed he didn’t look bereaved.
“Every cloud has a silver lining,” I remarked.
“What shall we do to Pansy,” he asked, ignoring my levity.
“Give her a wrist watch,” I said—and we did.