The Ronalds Beat the Dutch
NORMA PHILLIPS MUIR
Pokey returns to MacLean’s after an absence of several months, an experienced but still ecstatic traveller. Peter and she are still in Europe. One would expect that by this time her inquiries abroad would have taught her wisdom, but it wasn’t wisdom that led her into this series of misadventures in the Land of the Tulip.
"CAN'T see why you don't take in some side trips in England, or run up to Scotland instead
of crossing that deadly channel I’m busy,” growled Peter.
“You’ve been there, Peter, that’s why it doesn’t mean anything you,” I told him patiently. “If don’t want to come just give me money and a cable code and let go. I want to see Paris and I’m 'coming back across the channel I’ve seen Ostend and Brussels had a wallop at Holland. Just me the money and say goodbye to me.”
“That’s what I’d be doing for good,” he said worriedly. “I’d as soon see you playing with dynamite and a torch as to let you do this alone. I’d better start with you and save myself a hurried trip later, but if I go I manage the trip, see?”
“And I damage the money,” I said happily. “Oh, Peter, you’re so good to me!”
“Huh!” grunted Peter.
“And the children are just at the impressionable age,” I babbled on, “they’ll remember
“They’ll remember wondering where their parents are for a couple of weeks,” stated Peter.
“The children are not on this Itinerary, Mrs. Ronald, and that’s final.”
It was, too. He arranged to have the doctor look in at the apartment every other day and send us wires at different points, and Mrs. James promised to go In every day and see that they were not being neglected, and so, having to decide between this arrangement or no trip to Europe, I naturally decided to put the Bits in the hands of the Lord and go.
Peter was all for taking the Dover-Boulogne boat, making Paris our headquarters and taking flying trips from there to the points I had in mind, but after a little bit of perseverance I changed his mind and our Schedule embraced the night trip from Harwich to the Hook of Holland, thence to the Hague from which we would scoot over for an afternoon in Amsterdam,
and then work our way through Brussels to Ostend and thence to Paris.
After all he admitted that it was the better plan, and wondered where I had developed the superior knowledge. I might have told him that a handsome dark man at Cooks in Ludgate Circus had planned it for me, but I didn’t see the need.
Once we were aboard the St. Denis and the lights of England began to recede from view I began to wonder if I had been wise in trusting the dark gentleman. For quite a while I lay awake in my berth waiting to feel sick, but all I was conscious of was the fact that somebody was rocking the boat enough to lull me to sleep, and the next thing I knew I heard a tap at the door and Peter said: “All right, steward, thanks!” and then he beat a tattoo on the bottom of my bed and told me it was half past five and we were in.
THE first thing about Holland that I noticed were the numbers of people who rode bicycles. They rode them in ones and in twos and in bunches. Bicycling is one of the accepted methods of courting in Holland, I take it, for I saw scores of couples out riding and they had such control of their machines that they rode closely enough together for the boy to keep one hand on his sweetheart’s, hs it rests on the handle bars. Sometimes they didn’t just rest hands but held them honestly and let them swing as they rode along. I made up my mind that before I left Holland I was going riding, but I didn’t say anything to Peter about it just then, and let him follow me up to our room.
The hotel at the Hague—we went from the Hook to The
Hague en charabanc—smelled like dew and fresh butter and cold water, and when we were shown our room it was quite in keeping. A square of hand-blocked linen covered the electric light bulb and a larger one served for a table cover.
There was a high window reaching from floor to ceiling and long crimson curtains draped across it with a cord hanging at the side. The man deposited our cases and awaited his tip in truly American manner, and he was no sooner out of the room than Peter peeled off his coat and vest and shirt and filled the porcelain basin with sparkling water.
“Nothing like cold water to work up an appetite,” he burbled, splashing himself with the water.
I had enough appetite without the cold water, and wandered about the room, examining first one thing and then another, and finally that dangling cord caught my eye again and I gave it a yank.
“Hey,” yelled Peter diving for cover. “Cut that out!” for the cord acted as a sort of theatrical curtain pulley and looped the drape back from the window, exposing my husband to the curious view of the folks who had the room across from us.
“Watcha think this is, bedroom comedy?” he snapped from the corner. “Pull that cord again and pull it quick.”
“It won’t work, Peter,” I panted, yanking it without results. “I guess it’s caught.”
Peter fumed, and I pulled and twisted and pulled
and prayed but nothing happened
“Shall I ring for the maid, dear?” ! asked trembling.
“No,” shrieked Peter, “and don’ ring the fire alarm either! Pitch mi over a towel and my clothes and for get to think for a minute, and afte: this, Mrs. Ronald, ask me what yoi want to know and don’t preten you’re a female Christopher Colum bus. Use your tongue and not you: hands, see?”
Peter scowled at me all througl breakfast, but I noted that the ex posure hadn’t spoiled his fane] for food any.
^TOTHING untoward hap
pened during the morning We drove out to the Queen’: Palace in the Wood, and Pete: hung on to me so tightly thaï he almost cut off my circulation “Let go of me, can’t you?” 1 asked angrily.
“Not for ten seconds,” he sai grimly. “See that vase in thaï corner there? That’s worth i million-and-a-half and as sun as God made little apples you’c skid into it if you had your freedom.”
“All right,” I said, “hang on. and I hope to heaven you pull a boner soon, so’s you’ll be wortl living with again. At present your superiority is spurious but strategically sound.”
“Gosh!”breathed Peter. “Now I know I’ll have to hang on tc you, that sort o’ thing’s weakening, Pokey.” • -
I should have told you that he had insisted on carrying a cant with him; trying to look English you know, and he referred to it as his “stick” and acted as though he’d catch cold if he went out without it. Well, I intimated that with the stuff we’d accumulate he’d do well to leav« our safety to the constabulary; but Peter clung to his stick aí though it were his moral code.
There was a big crook on thf end of it by which Peter hung it over his arm most of the time, but as we came down the steps he stopped, put his cane behind him and struck an attitude of backward curves which the earn] was supposed to support. I dare-j
say it would have done so, for while Peter runs to length his score for avoirdupois isn’t high, but for a moment he let go of me, and in the souvenir stall I saw a bell I wanted to buy, an old fashioned, brass lady with full skirts, and 1 slipped around behind Peter to get it. Just as I was directly behind him he swung. I didn’t see the cane and caromed into it, while Peter, like Sampson, fell with hit pillar of strength. If ^e had yielded to the inevitable, ii wouldn’t have been so bad, but he tried to save himself and the net result was that he sat down on the edge of the step and kept sitting even while he made a thorougl trip, going down those steps with all the airy grace of a cow on a toboggan.
To make matters worse a very dignified English ladj was gracefully posed half way on his route, and Peter, not wishing to call attention to his speed, just picked her up neatly on his way down and took her with him.
I got to the bottom almost as soon as they did and when the lady made no effort to rise I touched her lightly oc the arm.
“This is as far as he goes,” I said sweetly, and bracing my foot against Peter’s I gave the lady my hand and hoisted her.
“I trust you enjoyed your trip?” I said to Peter, as hi began to brush himself off and straighten his hat. “Nothing is deranged but your dignity,” I assured him, ancj
gave him his stick.
For once he was silent. As a matter of fact, I think he had had the speech jarred out of him, but before he had time to recover and make the most of his voice I left him and purchased the bell.
“Two golders and a half, Peter,” I called brightly
“Peter,” I said, peremptorily, “some expressions are the same in all languages. Two and a half golders.”
We rejoined the others in the charabanc and after viewing the Carnegie Peace Palace we returned to the hotel for lunch.
“What do we do after lunch?” I asked “We’re going to drive to Scheveningen,” said Peter. “One of the finest summer resorts on the North Sea.”
“Is there any bathing?” I asked.
“No, they generally skate at summer resorts,” he said witheringly. “But as far as you’re concerned it might as well be ski-ing, Pokey. You’re not going in swimming in any country where I can’t yell help in their language. See?”
I intended to be sulky and dignified all the way to this place you had to sneeze the name of, but the first thing I knew I had forgotten about my peeve in the beauty of the scenery.
The guide interested himself in our ignorance and from the way he described the beauties of the pier when it was illuminated at night I made up our minds to stay for dinner and see it. Peter wasn’t very enthusiastic, I noted, but then he never is at the beginning, so I didn’t let that worry me.
WE ROAMED about the promenade and beach for a while and then I got tired, and seeing a couple of nice basket chairs we spoke of the thoughtfulness of the beach owners in having them there and sank thankfully into them. For the rest of the afternoon Holland didn’t mean a thing to me. Peter kept insisting that we go back to The Hague for dinner but I wanted to see the pier illuminated and I didn’t give him the shadow of an excuse for dragging me away. I was a perfect lady and by the time the scrumptious dinner at the Kurhaus, one of the biggest hotels on the beach, was nearing the finger bowl course, Peter was beaming with pride.
After dinner Peter arranged for a car to drive us back to The Hague, and then we went and sat on the beach and watched the bathers.
It was quite a time before the daylight faded sufficiently for us to really sense the beauty of the pier, its outline etched in flashing lights which were caught and reflected in the waters of the sea, but it was well worth waiting for.
“Let’s stroll out on it, Peter,” I whispered, reaching for his hand. “It’s so lovely.”
Wordless he rose and took my arm and it wasn’t until we were well out above the water on the pier that we spoke.
“It is wonderful, isn’t it, dear,” he said softly.
“ ’N then some,” I said. “Why haven’t we things like this at home, Peter?”
“The East is East and the West is West and never the twain shall meet,” he said solemnly.
“Yah, but Mr. Kipling meant India and Alberta,”
“Now don’t get feeling too good or I’ll snake you offa here,” he warned.
“Isn’t that windbreak a fine thing?”
“What windbreak?” I asked, and then he pointed out to me the glass division which ran down the centre of the pier to protect strollers from the sea breezes.
“It’s rather a cute idea too,” I said. “You could bow to someone you didn’t know, just for fun, and they couldn’t ask who you were or start anything through glass.”
“I doubt if that was the purpose for which it was erected,” said my husband, stiffly. “Just see if you can’t keep quiet for a few moments and absorb this beauty. Watch the rippling gold of the reflected lights, see the stars above and the silver path of the young moon.”
“Gosh,” I said worriedly,
“I thought that fish was a little off color! You’re either drunk or delirious.”
Peter glared at me and then took his hand from my arm and turned from me in displeasure. I didn’t mind.
I had on my rubber soled shoes and I sneaked off and was around on the other side of the windbreak and
almost opposite him before he’d decided to speak to me again.
I was watching through the glass and saw his lips move, and then when he received no answer he turned, and when he saw I was gone he turned a sort of sea-green shade.
“Serve you right for being so cranky to me,” I soliloquized, and I ducked out of sight as he swung around. How could I know he’d go blooey?
Anyway he did.
He looked wildly over the edge of the pier as though he expected to see me floating there on a barge like Elaine, and then he turned and opened his mouth. “Help,” I saw him shriek, “Succour! S.O.S.!”
He was making such a din that I couldn’t make him hear me when I rapped on the glass, and people came running and Peter’s mouth kept opening and closing and I had the funniest feeling to see him talking and yet hear nothing.
"You silly boob,” I yelled through the glass; but they didn t hear me and it wasn’t until a guard on my side of the partition came up to make me stop rapping on the glass that I made him understand I had to get in touch with the inaudible world, and then he blew a whistle he had and everybody stopped working their mouths across the aisle and he rapped with his baton or whatever they call it on the metal frame and the bunch turned and looked through, and I never hope to see anything as mad looking as Peter was when he caught my eye.
I bowed and smiled to him and to the crowd who had been so exercised about me, and I saw Peter turn to the man in uniform and say something and then they started toward the end of the pier which I had circled to get where I was, and Peter looked so angry that I started the other way, and when he came to where I should have been I was still on the other side of the glass.
He was purple, and he tried to shout through to me, but I put a hand to my ear, like folks who are hard of hearing do, and pretended I didn’t understand, I was nearly bursting from suppressed laughter, but I managed to keep a straight face and finally I got my shopping pad out of my purse and wrote:
“What are you saying?” and held it against the glass.
Peter got out his pocket diary and scribbled a moment and then held it up and I read:
“Daren’t put it in writing. Stay where you are until I get there.”
“I won’t unless you promise not to be cross,” I wrote back. “I can keep on going as long as you can.”
Peter breathed hard for a minute, I could see his chest heaving, and then he wrote:
“I promise,” and I nodded and went nonchalantly to the edge of the pier and waited for him.
“Ruth . . .” he stuttered.
“Do you think the path of the moon is as silver on that side, and the reflections as liquidly gold and the moon as
young?” I asked, and Peter swelled all up, and then took my arm and led me from the pier and to the place where our car was waiting, and he didn’t say one word until we were in our room at the hotel.
“I’ve a fond notion that a trimming is just what you need to put you in condition for the rest of this trip,” he said.
“You promised you wouldn’t be cross,” I reminded him.
“Once I looked the word up in the dictionary and it meant fretful, perverse or inconsistent,” he informed me. “I am none of these things. I am righteously angry.” “Blessed are the meek in spirit,” I suggested. “Peter, if you so much as pinch me by accident I’ll yell like murder.”
“I might gag you,” he said, weakening, and then he turned away from me suddenly, and I sneaked around in front of him and caught him grinning, and after that he couldn’t say anything.
“Honestly, Pokey, if I live through this trip without losing my hair or my reason I’m going to apply for a knighthood,” he choked. “I was mad enough to’ve licked you when I saw you through that partition, but if you could have seen yourself bowing and grinning and that guard uncertain whether to arrest you or give you a medal—” and Peter went off in a paroxysm of mirth. He was still emitting an occasional chuckle when I went to sleep.
WHAT do we do this morning, dear?” I asked, when we were at breakfast.
“What would you like to do that’s safe?” he asked kindly.
“I want to go for a bicycle ride,” I chortled.
“Nix!” hollered Peter.
“Shush up,” I hissed. “D’ya want folks to think I’m deaf?”
“Deaf or demented, is all the same to me so long as you don’t get on a bicycle,” he said.
“Well, I m going to, so that’s all there is to it,” I told him. “You make me sick the way you act. You’d think I didn’t know anything.”
“That’s what I do think,” he said. “Now listen, Ruth: Anything in reason I’ll be happy to do for you. But this ain’t reasonable. You haven’t been on a bicycle for years and—”
“I haven’t been free of you in years either, but that isn’t saying I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I woke up and found me single,” I said angrily. “I’m going to go riding, Peter. It’s the national pastime here, and I’m going to take it in, and if you don’t want to come you needn’t. Your absence won’t spoil my enjoyment any.” “ ’Satso?” he snapped. “I find myself in an unenviable posish. If I go I get into trouble. If I don’t go I stay home and you get into trouble, and smear me all over with it. When’s the suicide club due to start?”
“No time like the present,” I said happily. “You call the hotel man and arrange for the bicycles.” “Ruth, I’ll give you fifty dollars more to spend in Paris if you’ll reconsider this matter,” he said, desperately.
“Not having been able to worm out of you what you were going to give me anyway, I can’t be sure I’m getting the extra fifty, so I’ll ride the bike now,” I decided after a moment of thought.
Peter sighed, heaved with the burden of his sorrow, and I heard him talking in a loud voice in the hall.
“Bi-cycle,” he said plainly.
The porter shook his big blond head and smiled genially at him.
“B-i-c-y-c-l-e,” spelled Peter a trifle louder.
Still the negatively inclined head and the smile.
“I want to rent a BICYCLE,” yelled Peter.
“He’s not deaf, dear, he’s intelligent in his own language,” I interrupted the fracas. “Say it with gestures.”
Peter gave me a dirty look and glanced about for reinforcements. “The proprietor’s out and this bird can’t speak Christian.” “We’re wasting time,” I
Continued on page 61
Continued from page 11
pointed out, and Peter grinned as though that thought brought comfort, while I looked about for an instrument of indication and caught sight of a stool behind the reception desk.
In a jiffy I had it out and was up on it, and then grasping imaginary handle bars I began to pedal the air and the blond giant threw back his head and roared. Then he disappeared to return a moment with a smaller edition of himself whom he despatched with many guttural instructions.
“Think you’re smart, don’t you?” gritted Peter, as we went up to our room to get ready for the ride.
“Merely normal,” I retorted. “Say, fish my gym bloomers out of that biggest bag, will you Pop?”
“You’re not going to wear them,” he stated firmly.
“All right,” I agreed. “It makes no difference to me. I only thought that with the short skirts and the prevailing winds and the pedals it might be more modest, but if you don’t mind I don’t. How’d I look when I was on the stool?”
“I’ve given up obscene language,” said Peter. “Git into the acrobatics then, but let the apparel be the curtain raiser and the finale of the funny stuff, see?”
“Yes, Peter,” I said meekly. “Will you hold my hand when we ride?”
. “If I hold my temper it’ll be about all I can manage,” he retorted. “When did you learn to ride, Ruth?”
“When I was about nine,”
“And how long since you’ve ridden?” ' “Since about nine, I told you,” I said.
“I mean how long a period has elapsed since you were last on a wheel?” he said, with dangerous calm.
_ “Oh, let me think. I learned when I was nine and I stopped riding shortly after I learned,” I told him; but I didn’t think it was necessary to tell him that the reason was that the policeman on our block made father confiscate my bike because I could not remember which was my right hand or my left and had run him down three times.
“If we come out of this without trouble I’ll send a thank offering to the Missionary Society,” worried Peter. “There’s the boy with the vehicles of valor now. Remember, Ruth, any monkey shines and we’re in a deuce of a mess. You can’t vamp these policemen over here for you can’t talk their language, so keep your eye on the road.”
“I never used my vocabulary to vamp with, and as for keeping my eyes on the road, how can I see Der Haag if I do that?” I asked.
“I’m going to be old before my time,” worried Peter, as we were about to ascend the bicycles.
“You’ll have to hold it while I get on and then give me a little shove off,” I informed him. “I think I can balance once I’m on.”
“I’ll give you seventy-five dollars right in your mit if you’ll go up and take those joy knickers off and come to the Mauritshuis with me,” implored Peter.
“Double or nothing,” I said.
“Deal’s off,” stated Peter. “Git on and go.”
“Where are we off to?”
“Trust in God and use your feet,” said Peter and after a couple of struggles I found the seat and the pedals and the handle bars.
“The seat’s a little high,” I suggested.
“It ain’t a piano stool to wind up,” said my mate. “Sit on the edge and you’ll be'alright.”
“Don’t let me get too far ahead of you, dear,” I said, nervously.
“That is one score on which you need have no fear,” he stated. “Ready?”
“Let ’er go,” I said bravely, and then I shot forward and the flying pedals both hit me several wallops before I got the flat of my foot on them, and the wheel wavered and nearly went over with me twice, but I grasped the handle bars firmly and kept one thumb on the bell and after a minute or so I began to get my cycle circulation working better and thought maybe it might be enjoyable after all.
The street was pretty well filled with cyclists and I didn’t dare look behind to see if Peter was coming. It took me all my time to escape running into things and people, and then I suddenly remembered that my trouble had been that I couldn’t learn to turn around. I remembered . riding until I came to vacant fields where
I could fall soft, and then turning the ¡ bicycle and coming back, and I began to worry about finding another field when j Peter came abreast of me, and I saw that ¡ he was looking worried too.
“Wonderful, isn’t—it?” I said in rhythm with the pedals.
“Hah!” said Peter, concentrating on the road.
“Such pretty country, isn’t it, dear?” I asked, my mind occupied with being sure that my feet and the pedals connected every time.
“Yes—may—be,” sing-songed my husband. “Let’s get off this busy street.”
“Gosh, no,” I cried, and in my conj sternation I turned to look at Peter and the machine veered.
“Look out!” he screeched.
“All right,” I said, calmly, fortified by the fact that I had actually controlled it for a moment. “Maybe if we keep to this road it will lead to the country.”
“Whither goest thou, to heaven or to —Golly, Ruth, keep both hands and feet working,” he shouted, as I attempted to steer with one hand.
“I wanted to be courted in Holland,”
I said plaintively.
“You’ll be jailed in Holland, if you don’t look out,” he yelled.
By this time, however, we were really becoming almost accustomed to the motion and the work. Peter was brightening up, but knowing that I could neither stop nor turn around without help, I wasn’t enjoying unalloyed bliss. I figured by the time Peter’d get off and be ready to help me, I’d be beyond help, and I thought of the Bits and wondered how long they’d remember me.
“If anything happens to me, Peter, I only ask one thing of you,” I quavered. “Pick out someone who’ll be good to the children?”
“What’s worrying you?” he asked.
“I just got to thinking of eventualities.” “Well it isn’t the most cheerful time to be doing it,” he growled. “Just look at I the flowers growing on that canal wall, Ruth, and forget my second wife.”
“I can’t,” I said, referring to the looking part of his speech.
“We’ll have to turn here,” he said, “the canal, p—”
“I can’t, Peter,” I shrieked. “I forgot to tell you, but I don’t know how to turn.” i
“Shut up and get off, then,” he called, i angry to see folks’ heads turning.
“I’ve forgotten that, too,” I yelled. ¡ “Peter—stop me quick—!”
“Ruth—fer the luva—” but that’s all I ! heard.
If Gabriel and all his choir members had been standing at one side of that road beckoning to me, and the abyss of darkness had yawned straight ahead I couldn’t have veered an inch to miss it and join the anthem makers. I always take the most direct path to a thing, and I didn’t change my life-long habit for a mere canal wall.
I was nearly at it when Peter hollered, and before I got the context of his speech that canal wall and I made a head-on connection and I felt an invisible hand prying mine loose from the handle bars, while other invisible but invincible forces pried me loose from that seat, and I soared upward for a moment before the grand finale.
There was a splash and then I felt my/ self going down and when I came up spluttering and striking out for the shore I saw the shore was of gray stone and was several perpendicular feet above -me. Also the rockbound coast was framed with faces, all of them worried, but only one white with fear.
“Ruth—my wife—” shouted Peter, poising on the edge as though to dive for me.
“Peter — blub-lub blublublub — don’t come in—it’s wet,” I called, and turning over on my back I floated, or would have only the very full gym bloomers suddenly filled with water and that part of my anatomy went under and my feet came up to greet my head and I just missed going under again.
“What’ll I do?” asked Peter.
“Write your mother and ask her,” I shrilled. “Throw me a line when you have time to think about it.”
“A rope,” he demanded of the crowd. “Try Esperanto,” I called, treading water, as the crowd tried to understand. “What is it in French?” asked Peter,
becoming calmer when he realized that I was not in danger.
“There’s an idiom book in my suitcase,”1 informed him icily.
“I think it’s la fecelle,” cried Peter.
“That’s string,” I said in scorn. “Say, get a move on or I’ll develop fins. This isn’t my native element y’know. I can’t wait while you take lessons.”
“If I had my stick-—” he began.
“If you had enough in your brain box to rattle—” I gurgled. “Peter, do something—” .
Fortunately for me it wasn t left to Peter. A fat little policeman arrived on the scene, took in the situation at a glance and within twenty seconds a chain ladder was slung over the edge of the canal wall and I was swimming toward it, had grasped it and climbed sloppily up to the surface where my husband, dull red with anger and mortification, awaited me.
He didn’t even take a step toward me
and that made me mad.
“Peter,” I quavered in a high voice. “I’m saved.”
“So one sees,” he said coldly, and for one half minute he took his eyes from me to hand something to the policeman.
That half minute cost him dear. With outstretched arms I rushed at him.
“Saved—for you and our children,” I cried, hurling myself into his arms and getting a good hold of him.
“Soppin’ Sockeye, leggo o’ me!” he screeched, trying to pry himself free, but I hung on and let myself go limp, and Peter had to hold me or drop me, and he knew better than to do the latter.
“Cab, car, motor, taxi,” he kept saying, louder each time.
“Say it in French, dear,” I suggested weakly, and Peter, after finally going over the letters of the alphabet, remembered and said it.
“Aussi, si vous plait,” I amended his curtness.
It wasn’t long before we were in it and our bicycles on top and in ten minutes were back before the hotel we had so jauntily quitted a short time previously. Peter paid the sums mentioned without dispute, led me shivering and with chattering teeth to our room, and, before he even ordered me a hot drink, he sent for the manager, paid our account and made arrangements to leave on the next train. Then when it was all settled, he turned to me, and in accents coldly formal and a bit repressive, stated:
“In the mildest words I can use, Ruth Ronald, you beat the Dutch.”