RODDY SAYERS was in about as unpleasant a position as a young man well could be. There was nothing in his immediate surroundings to suggest such a thing, but the fact remained.
Here was he, Roderick Arthur, nearing the end of the Easter holidays which he had been so glad to spend with the Ponsonby family, still eating their excellent food and drinking their excellent, if teetotal, drinks; still reclining on their long chairs amongst the potted ferns on their verandah, and still enjoying the society of their two young resident daughters, but, regrettably, not retaining his former firm intention of proposing marriage to Alice, that third itinerant daughter who was not quite so young!
The position was really impossible, and yet he could think of no graceful way of regularizing it.
Alice Ponsonby, a thin tall dark girl who might almost have been described as the bone of contention, held a post with the Education people which wrenched her periodically from the parental bungalow at Kuala Kembang, the capital, and established her at Kuala-something-else, a very small Kuala indeed, where she taught a class of little Malay girls, and lived with the lady doctor in a charming bungalow overlooking the river; and where, although the white population numbered something under a dozen all told, that promising young police officer, Roderick Arthur Sayers, was amongst the dozen.
Alice was the only completely unmarried lady in Kuala-whatever-it-was. Roddy was the most eligible male. Need one say more? unless to mention that the lady doctor’s bungalow was roomy and comfortable and gay with cretonnes and flowers, and the lady doctor rarely at home, whereas the habitation shared by Roddy
There are souls so depraved as to curse vigorously when invited to consider the inspiriting example of the busy little bee. Such lax and languid spirits will sympathize, to the full, with the hero of this little tale in his ingenious efforts to rid himself of a maiden who considers badminton, with the thermometer at ioo deg. in the shade, a gentle form of relaxation.
with the junior engineer was a dark and mouldy affair, furnished principally with bottles on the sideboard and stains on the tablecloth, and where the junior engineer was nearly always at home and nearly always performing, inexpertly, on a distressing musical instrument which he called the “melojeon.”
It seems almost superfluous to record that Roddy spent all his spare moments, and a good many that were not strictly spare, at Alice’s abode—where it was so comfortable and where the lady doctor so seldom intruded—except for the healthful hours which he spent out of doors, playing Alice at tennis or golf, at which she was very good and beat him hollow. Rather an error of judgment, this, on the part of an otherwise accomplished girl, but Roddy was too infatuated to mind.
What with the strains of the junior engineer’s melodeon driving him forth like a bass broom, and the refined comforts of Alice’s bungalow drawing him thither like a powerful magnet, poor Roddy simply hadn’t a chance from the word “go.” Alice was thirty-three, exactly nine years his senior, which she knew very well, though he didn’t; moreover she was secretly engaged to some poor devil of a ship’s officer, far away on the high seas, who adored the very air she breathed and kept her portrait,
crayon-finished, on the little shelf just above his shaving-mirror. But Roddy was a far more eligible proposition, from a commercial point of view, and Alice meant to have him if she could. Hence the invitation to visit the parental bungalow at Kuala Kembang the previous Christmas, and the further invitation for the present Easter.
RODDY had so far kept his head, that he had never actually mentioned the word matrimony to his Alice, and their love-making had gone no further than, on his side, the “Take my arm and then you won’t stumble” stage, and on hers the making of quite innocent remarks such as “Oh, don’t; those great strong hands of yours look as though they could crush my poor little wrists to nothing!” But, dear me, the things he’d hinted, the things he’d allowed to be tacitly understood, the looks their friends gave them when they danced all evening together at the Club!
Roddy felt like a very small, weak, mean-looking fly, firmly entangled in an immense net, with a whole family of predatory spiders advancing on every side! What had brought to an end h'is deluded folly and made him feel like this he could not imagine; but there it was, and very black the prospect looked to him.
Nothing definitely had been said to him, of course—the Ponsonbys were not as crude as all that—but Roddy knew, as well as if it had been laid down in General Orders, that on his last night at Kuala Kembang he would be expected to pop the question. According to Ponsonby standards, he had kept Alice dangling quite long enough.
He divined this fact by the way in which Mamma Ponsonby had remarked at breakfast, “If you come
again, Mr. Sayers, you must really bring your musical friend—my girls so enjoy a jolly singsong round the piano, and, dear me, the money her father spent on having Alice taught!”
At Christmas it had been not if, but: “When you come again, Mr. Sayers, you must really bring your racquet. Alice plays such a splendid game of tennis!”
It was, possibly, this very proficiency of Alice’s at so many different pursuits, chiefly strenuous ones, that had caused Roddy’s feelings to cool off. He was not a lazy young man, but his work was sufficiently arduous to make him enjoy a little rest and relaxation occasionally, and these were things that could never be expected within a ten-mile range of the Ponsonby family. They all gloried in activity, and insisted upon their friends glorying with them.
What was the use of their good curry-tiffins, when, no sooner was one pleasantly filled, and requiring only a little repose to complete one’s bliss, than one was pounced upon by an alert and vigorous Ponsonby and made to play tennis or badminton, or go striding off on that tiresome long walk up to the waterworks, “to see the view?” What was the use of their comfortable lounge chairs, when, no sooner was one settled therein, or on, than some Ponsonby or other would immediately devise a scheme for digging one out again? And how tired one grew of hearing of all their varied accomplishments; their singing, playing, painting, drawing, dress-making, hat-trimming, cushion-making, carving and embroidery. Not to mention their prowess at every game that was ever played!
Roderick Arthur, on this particular morning, had the verandah to himself for a brief period, and so was indulging his idle regrets undisturbed, the while he puffed away at a large pipe of singularly unprepossessing aspect. Alice was busy fixing up a tennis-four on the telephone; Papa Ponsonby was fussing with his car in the garage, and nearly reducing his Malay driver to a state of amok; Mamma Ponsonby was somewhere at the rear, having a snappy verbal contest with the native cook, he asserting, and she denying, that the fish at last night’s dinner had cost every bit of ninety-five cents, and the two resident Miss Ponsonbys were having a kind of dog-fight with the piano in the drawing-room. One of them presently tired of this sport and left her sister to fight it out with “The Sheek of Ara-bee!” while she took advantage of Alice’s preoccupation to have a turn with jolly old Roddy. Brenda liked Roddy very much and resented her elder sister’s appropriation of him.
SHE sidled up now and perched herself on the arm of his long chair. Finding the visitor unusually distrait, she sought how she might engage his attention.
“Roddy, will you write your ‘confession’ in my book, if I bring it?” she asked wheedlingly, and he sat up with a startled glare. Heavens! Could the child, then, read his thoughts? But Brenda only ran off and fetched a leatherbound volume inscribed, “Confessions of my Friends,” in handsome gilt lettering, and he heaved a sigh of relief.
“Good gracious, you don’t mean to tell me that these ridiculous things still flourish in these enlightened days?” he said, severely, but this was rather a nice young Miss Ponsonby still in her latter teens, so he added with an amiable smile: “Well, give me a pen, and I’ll see about it!”
“I wonder what would happen if I wrote my real confession,” he thought, as he turned over the pink and blue and yellow pages of the foolish volume, while Brenda was seeking a pen. The other confessions were obviously made by humbugs of the deepest dye, so prim were their tastes, so unexceptionable their sentiments. There was nothing in them to interest, and he was about to select a blank page for his own contribution, when his eye was attracted by a very pretty handwriting and a very pretty name. He ventured to ask Brenda on her return if the owner were living in the neighborhood.
“No luck, Roddy.” said the astute Brenda. “She was only just out on a trip and stayed a few days with the Hansons on her way to Java. I expect she has gone home again by now, and if you ask any more questions I shall tell Alice!”
Roddy flushed with annoyance; back came the problem of the moment in all its unpleasant intensity. He bent his head low over his “confession” and rapidly confided to the world in general, that his tastes lay largely in the direction of dandelions, Dr. Crippen, treacle pudding, and Tiddley Winks; further that his favorite musical composition was “Peeping through the knot-hole in Father’s wooden leg”: favorite work of art “The Rake’s Progress”: favorite fish, soles and eels; favorite animal, the ring-tailed baboon; favorite bird, the duck-billed platypus; favorite fruit, the onion; and so on, in a rising crescendo of asininity which threw the unexacting Brenda .nto paroxysms of mirth, and brought Alice along to see i
what the merriment was all about, just as Roddy was trying to answer the question: “What is your highest ambition?” If he had been truthful he would have written. “To make my get-away from this house without being roped in by the family!”
Alice considered this a good moment to whisk the visitor off to play badminton in the garden, a game at which she excelled, as did all the Ponsonbys at the more violent forms of exercise. In vain Roddy pointed out that the scene was laid in the tropics, and that it was nearing the hottest time of the day; Alice merely fetched her topi and ordered him to do likewise.
Really, it was no kind of holiday for an over-worked chap if he was going to attempt to keep up with this energetic family!
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Roderick Arthur retired from the game about an hour later, limp, perspiring, crushed with defeat, and filled with the conviction that he must have a short respite from the unbearable strain of living, or go mad. Declining a limesquash out of sheer pettish perversity, although extremely thirsty, and making the excuse that he must really go off and change, he passed by the telephone end of the back verandah just as the bell began to make its vile cachinnation. He grabbed up the receiver.
“Hullo!” yelled Roddy, all ready to be exasperated no matter who, or what, it might be, “HUL-LO/”
“Keep your wool on,” urged a male voice with a decidedly Irish accent; “it’s only me, and I’ll run away and hide if you’re going to be cross with me!”
It was the junior engineer, and never before had Roddy realized how deeply he loved him.
“O’Keefe!” he cried hysterically. “Where are you, angel heart? And what on earth are you doing in K.K.?” “Do you think you are the only gay Lothario in the country?” asked the voice in offended tones. “If you really want to know, I’m busy courting a lady, and a very nice one, too—quite as nice as your bony Alice, me lad!” “Sh-sh-sh!” warned Roddy, glancing guiltily over his shoulder; “for goodness sake tell me where you’re speaking from?”
“The Gymkhana Club, and please come round there at once. I want your advice urgently, for alas, the course of true love is not running at all smoothly. So pop on your lid and come along quick, and maybe I’ll give you a drink!”
“Righto!” breathed Roddy softly, and dashed off, all moist and bedraggled as he was, to hurl himself into the first rickshaw he saw, and not daring to look back for fear Alice or some other vigilant Ponsonby should have spotted him. If O’Keefe wanted advice from Roddy Sayers, it was a sure thing he would get none until he had dispensed some of the same commodity to his distressed stable-companion.
COON the two friends were seated at a small table under ^ a gently whirring fan in the corner of the room, and instructions having been given to one of the “boys,” who hovered near by, to keep up lines of communication with the club bar, they settled down to pow-wow in real earnest.
O’Keefe had the advantage of Roddy, for, besides being cool, calm and collected by nature, he was dressed very smartly in a spotless and creaseless white suit, with collar and tie and socks and shoes all just so, whereas Roddy was looking a fearful mess, owing to his recent
heated contest with Alice Ponsonby over the'badminton net. In truth, he gave the idea of a young man who had just been rescued from a watery grave and endured mueh at the hands of husky “artificial respiration” fans.
“Excuse my choosing this rather remote table,” said O’Keefe, eyeing his companion critically, “but, to be frank, I’m not very keen on being seen with you just at the moment. Perhaps you went to bed in them before yon fell into the drain?” he hinted delicately.
“Perhaps you could stop being an adjectival ass!'* growled his overwrought friend. “Perhaps, if you were staying in a house where they made you play badminton after breakfast, of all fool things to do in this fool climate, you might be looking a bit squashy yourself!”
“Well, well,” said O’Keefe, soothingly, as the long drinks arrived, “I’m very pleased to see you, old man, even if you do look as though you'd swallowed a pair of bed-socks and then gone to sleep in your bath. Here’s to us!”
Action followed word; a pause for breath, more action, sighs of partially restored contentment, and two long empty glasses were replaced on the table. The lurking bar-boy correctly interpreted the slight lifting ol Roddy’s left eyebrow, swiftly gathered up the glasses, and bore them off for replenishment.
“Never mind about you for the moment,*’ said Roddy now; “I want to talk about me!" And nothing availing to stop him, the horrid tale was soon unfolded in detail; disillusionment, predicament and all.
“No more than I expected, my boy,” said O’Keefe sorrowfully. “You never would listen to your Uncle Paddy, and now it looks to me as though you’d got about as much chance as a blind man in a dark room, chasing a black cat that isn’t there!”
“Lot of help you are!” moaned the unfortunate Roderick Arthur, feeling the web grow
thicker and thicker.
“Well, now, will you just hear about me?" suggested O’Keefe, “and maybe it will cheer you up to hear what an awful fix I’m in
Roddy could not simulate even the thinnest semblance of interest, but settled himself moodily to wait until his friend should have worked the poison out of his system.
“I expect it will come as a bit of a shock,” began O’Keefe, “when I let it be known that while you were so busy chasing your precious Alice, I, too, was not entirely idle; in fact I was extremely busy. You were so fond of declaring that I drove you out of the house with my melojeon-playing, that it never occurredi to your inferior intelligence you were also chasing Doctor Molly out of house and home, as well, with your everlasting coy glances and sloppy talk with Alice. Now, there’s a girl with some sense, if you like—Doctor Molly I mean, of course—so much so, that it’s going to take me all my time to get her to marry me, if at all. When you two had got to the stage of making the atmosphere practically unbreathable by a third party» Doctor Molly got into the way of sneaking out and taking shelter on our verandah, and as she didn’t want to hurt your feelings, though I assured her you hadn’t got any, she took care that you should never suspect she had been hounded out by your beastly selfishness.”
“Well, I never!” gasped Roddy, startled into genuine interest at last, “you sly old horse! I wouldn’t have thought it of you, Paddy!”
“I wouldn’t have thought it of myself, in an ordinary way, as a matter of fact ; but, dash it all, there’s something about the sight of a helpless girl turned out of her only home, to perish miserably by the wayside, that would call out the latent chivalry in any man, let alone a kindhearted, decent chap like myself. At one time, I thought you and I ’ud be able to economize and make a double honeymoon of it, but now things have fallen out au unexpectedly for both of us that I doubt if there’ll be any wedding at all! More likely we shall both flee the country.
“You’re not going to tell me,” said Roddy kindly, “that a discriminating girl like Doctor Molly Meredith is so oblivious to the magnificent bargain lying right to her hand, nay her foot, that she’s going to do the haughty and turn you down?”
“She is!” groaned poor O’Keefe, “oh, it’s the very devil! She doesn’t object to me, but its the melojeon. She won’t take me on, plus the melojeon, at any price. SayB I’ve got to choose between them. Then, because I sort of cut up rough about it, she cuts up rougher still and says it’s obvious which I care for most! As if a fellow can be expected to choose like that, between his art and, well, his heart?”
“Sorry, old thing,” said Roddy firmly; “but the lady has my sympathy all the time. How can I forget that, if it hadn't been for the vile row you persisted in making on that vulgar instrument, I should have stayed quietly at home o' nights and never got tied up in this awful Continued on page 76
Continued from page 10
tangle I’m now in. Just you listen to Uncle: throw the old squeal-box on to the dust-heap, where it rightly belongs, and thank your lucky stars that Doctor Molly is willing to let bygones by bygones!” O’Keefe sat in silence awhile, the very picture of woe, and only rousing himself to repeat that significant twitch of the eyebrow which ensured replenished glasses once more.
“I couldn’t do ut,” he said at last. “Not after the pals we’ve been, that instrument and I. I should feel as though I was throwing away me infant child.”
IT WAS plain that here was a strong man wrestling with despair, and Roddy felt really concerned for his friend now, for he knew how fiercely the old love struggled for supremacy against the new. The sacrifice must come eventually, of course, since Doctor Molly Meredith was too good to miss, and her case would be upheld by any impartial judge. The problem was: how soften the blow?
Fora moment, Roddy felt sorry for poc r O’Keefe, almost to the extent of forgetting his own woes, but not quite. Of a sudden, he was struck by a brilliant idea, and between two gulps of iced “shandy” he had perfected it. On the third and last gulp, he was ready to put it into action.
“Paddy, old chap,” he began, real kindness in his tones, “I feel for you, I do indeed, even though I think the girl has a right to decide whether she’ll embrace music as her spouse as well as the handsome young descendant of all the bestknown kings of Ireland. No really nice girl willingly contemplates bigamy, you know, and that’s what it would amount to, sure enough. But, if she’s truly fond of you, it won’t be necessary to part with your delightful instrument for long. Just J pretend to give it to me. I’ll take care of j it for you as though it were a child of my I own, and then after you’ve been married | a> bit, and dug yourself in, so to speak, I I’ll bet any money you’ll have Doctor j Molly positively begging you to get it | back again from me! She’ll find it too much for her, that pathetic look which I can already see creeping into your eye!
I Just bank on her soft heart, Paddy me J bhoy, and hand the melojeon over to ! me.”
“A girl who thinks nothing of sawing off an arm or leg before breakfast isn’t 1 going to be as soft as all that,” objected Mr. O’Keefe; “not that I’d call her callous | though, you understand?”
“Of course not, that’s just what I’m pointing out,” said Roddy soothingly. I “Now, Paddy, just you hand over while the high exalted mood of sacrifice is on you; I bet you’ve got it with you?”
“Yes, I never go very far without my dear old melojeon.”
“Well, where is it? And have you got your car with you? And how would you like to ask me to tiffin?”
“The answers to your three queries in numerical order are as follows: one, it’s at the hotel; two, yes, I have; three, no, ^wouldn’t like it at all! And what’s more, | I’m not at all sure I could trust you with a i delicate instrument like my melojeon— you d probably tread on it in a moment j of inebriety, or else feed it to your | puppies!”
But, in spite of his protests, Mr. ! O’Keefe was finally overruled to the extent of motoring Roddy off to his room 1 at the hotel and there tenderly confiding to his care the rather costermongerishj looking affair that was causing all the | trouble. Only remained for him to sally forth and call on his beloved at the house where she was staying, to announce his act of renunciation as affectingly as might be, and then proceed to reap his sweet reward. The only thing that Roddy could not persuade his old friend to do ¡ was to tolerate his company at lunch, no matter at whose expense.
“I’ve had tiffin with you every day for I a year or more,” said O’Keefe crudely, | “and, to be frank, it wasn’t my idea to come all this way for the pleasure of doing it again. See you over the rissoles and rice-pudding on your return, dear heart!” Roddy was therefore decanted from the O’Keefe car at the top of the Ponsonby drive, while the owner, oblivious to his I friend’s own piteous plight, dashed off to his ladylove in a mood compounded of [ about equal parts of tragedy and triumph.
☺RODDY slunk up the drive and, by dint of skulking round some hibiscus bushes and entering the bungalow by his bath-room door at the back, escaped observation. His first act was to hide the melojeon, his next to have a hurried tub, after which he arrayed himself in a clean tussore suit and went jauntily off to tiffin. The family greeted him with badinage only; clearly a miracle had happened and his absence had been undetected.
“What a time you’ve been, dressing yourself up like a sore finger!”
“My belief is you dropped off to sleep! Come now, confess!”
“Fancy getting bowled out by a couple of sets of badminton! Why, sometimes we play all day, hot sun and all!”
“You are a lazy old thing!”
“If you visit us again, Mr. Sayers,” this from Mamma, “you will have to let Alice get you into training. She holds a diploma for physical drill, you know, and I’m sure she’d soon teach you some useful exercises.”
Roddy shuddered inwardly, but made no outward sign other than an amiable laugh at the family wit and a polite acknowledgement of the maternal solicitude.
Being Sunday, there was no dancing that evening to engage the energetic Ponsonbys, but they put in some golf and tennis between them and then, after dinner, the family gathered round the piano for some music.
It was at this moment that Roddy produced the melodeon. He could play it, after an excruciating sort of fashion, thanks to previous efforts on the part of the zealous O’Keefe, who would have liked to form all his friends into one grand orchestra of “melojeonists,” filling the air with their glad rendering of “Boyne Water” or “The Peeler and the Goat.”
A dark purpose lay behind Roddy’soffer, nay his insistence on contributing to the evening’s musical programme. Mrs. Ponsonby looked a little askance at the melodeon which she evidently considered to be a trifle “low,” but siÆ was still in the stage of being as nice to Roddy as she knew how, so she only beamed at him indulgently—until hebroke into a spirited rendering of “Who takes care of the caretaker’s daughter?” with variations on that classic melody never dreamed of by the composer.
Never, probably, had any hostess had her sense of politeness so strained to its uttermost limits as was poor Mrs. Ponsonby’s that evening. She endured for quite a considerable period, but when it became only too glaringly apparent that her guest intended to hold the line with rag-time foully murdered for hours on end, she began to wonder wildly how she could stop him, and what on earth the neighbors must be thinking?
There was nothing timid about Roddy’s playing; his instrument groaned and wailed and shrieked to high heaven - tomcats in mortal combat, bagpipes writhing in pain, were as nothing simply in comparison. Mrs. Ponsonby on a sudden inspiration set her features into an austere mould and remarked pointedly that it was the Sabbath, and, as such, must inevitably be broken into fragments if the present performance did not immediately cease.
“Oh, that’s all right!” replied Roddy with a bright smile, and forthwith galloped his melodeon off into, “Onward Christian Soldiers,” the more onward of the Christian soldiers being noticeably out of step. Before anyone could stop him, he was off again, this time with, “Oh, where is my wandering boy to-night?” his rendering giving every indication of the direction in which some of the wandering boy’s steps had taken him!
In vain, the family exerted its wilesit pleaded, reasoned, urged, besought, nay threatened, but it was all of no avail. Roddy kept steadily on, and, when his repertoire came to an end, he resorted to playing the same tunes over and over again, until finally the entire family revolted openly and let him know in no uncertain terms just what they thought of his rude behavior in general and his atrocious minstrelsy in particular.
Nothing, however, served to discourage those nimble fingers, that swaying form; nothing could dull that roguish look of fun.
“Damn you, sir!” at last shouted Papa Ponsonby, purple in the face and past all caring that there were ladies present, and that, many years before, he had signed a pledge which read, “I will not drink, I will not smoke, I will not swear!” He had
reached a pitch where he must relieve his feelings or perish.
“Damn you, sir, is this your house or mine? If it’s mine, then let me tell you, sir, I will not stand that damnable noise a moment longer!”
And, indeed, he looked so choleric, and so much as though he intended to apply a firm and impassioned foot to O’Keefe’s cherished instrument, that Roddy deemed it politic to bring the concert to a close. For one thing, his arms ached intolerably; for another, he had clearly achieved his purpose; for Alice more than any of them was looking as though she could enjoy tearing him to pieces with red-hot pincers.
ÇJO, THE unappreciated musician ^ tucked his melodeon under his arm, waved an airy goodnight to the family, and retired to his bedroom, leaving them all seething like a nest of hornets.
Next morning, soon after dawn, he was up, packed and away, having sent his boy out to hire a vehicle in which to remove his effects. The Ponsonbys appeared to be unaware of his stealthy departure, or were, perhaps, only too aware and too acquiescent!
Roddy’s first direction was toward the house of the Medical Officer, a friend of long standing whom he found clad in a sarong and baju, consuming hot tea and bananas on his verandah, and mildly reproachful at being disturbed at such an early hour.
“Doctor,” said Roddy earnestly, “you can see at a glance what is wrong, can’t you?”
“No, I can’t, but I expect it’s the usual. How much leave do you want?”
“Ah, that’s the spirit,” said Roddy approvingly. “No need to feel my pulse, or take my temperature, or enquire into my symptoms. Just take it from me that I’m in a state of high fever and complete nervous exhaustion, and give me a chit to say that a short sea-trip or something is absolutely necessary in my present state of health! I’ve simply got to have time to pull myself together before I go back to the great work of putting down crime!”
“I shall do nothing of the kind, of course,” said the M.O., placidly sipping his tea, “but I’ll call the boy and tell him to bring another teacup if you like.”
“Have a heart, Doc!” groaned Roddy. “I’ve just come through the most appalling mental strain, and feel as if I might go clean off my rock’r for two pins! I can’t tell you what it’s all about, it’s too awful for even a hardened old sawbones like you, but, believe me, I’ve had a narrow squeak!”
The M.O. now gave his young friend a more interested look, and grabbed hold of his wrist.
“Why, you young ass, I thought you were joking and you’ve really got a pulse after all! Here, let’s take your temperature. Been having any malaria lately?”
“Doc, you’re a sportsman!” said Roddy, quite misunderstanding, and taking the precaution to pop the thermometer first into his cup of tea, which the boy had poured out for him. The M. 0. was not to be imposed upon by an old trick like this, of course, but he evidently considered this excitable young man in no fit state to go back to work, and prescribed accordingly. With the delightful result, that, instead of taking the mailtrain back to Kuala-wherever-it-was, Roddy, within a few hours, found himself reclining in a long chair on the deck of a Penang-bound steamer, Kuala Kembang and all his worries left far behind.
His contented bliss increased the more when he noticed that an attractive-looking novel was lying unguarded on the chair next to his own. The owner seemed to have temporarily abandoned it and Roddy, never greatly troubled by bashfulness, reached out for it and prepared to enjoy the contents for so long as he might be allowed. But when he saw the name inscribed upon the fly-leaf, he nearly dropped the book in his surprise. For the name was the pretty name in the pretty handwriting, that very self-same name which had taken his fancy so much when he had seen it in the Ponsonby Confession Album only the morning before.
All this happened so long ago now that I think it cannot matter if I disclose the information that the pretty name, in the pretty handwriting, was none other than that of Miss Daisy Field.
“If you have finished with my book, might I have it?” said an amused voice at his elbow, and Roddy sprang up in great
confusion to behold the most glorious girl he had ever met in his life.
I do not know if it has been previously made clear, but it is a fact that Roddy Sayers, with all his faults, was an attractive youth, pleasant in manner and easy to look upon. There were several inches more of him than the average, he had nice blue eyes, a mop of fair hair and a sunburned skin. He was quite obviously the good chap that he was, and Miss Daisy Field may be excused for allowing herself to be treated as though she had been the one bright star in a dark sky for countless ages of time, instead of merely the scratched-up acquaintance of a few hours. .
PENANG was reached all too soon for Roddy, but not before he ha.d discovered that this wonderful girl was so fortunately placed that she could indulge any little whim, such as running over to South Africa for afternoon tea or spending the week-end at San Francisco; that she | hadn’t a relation in the world to bother j about where she went or what she did; | that she was heartily tired of all this lonely wandering and meant to buy a little house and settle down; and that on the whole she was not at all offended with 1 Roddy for becoming such a very particuj lar friend all in about five minutes, and all i on the strength of her slender association with those nightmare Ponsonbys with j whom he had severed connection for ever. He also found out that she did not play tennis or golf or badminton, that she never made her own clothes, trimmed her own hats, painted on porcelain, woodcarved, leather-punched, embroidered or knitted. Nor cared to walk more than a couple of miles or so at a time, nor ever wanted to drive a car, a flying-machine or a motor-bicycle. Nor played the piano, or sang, or went out of her way to cause others to do so. Or ever got out of temper, or flurried, or worried, or anything else that entailed unpleasant exertion.
She was as restful as a blue lake in ¡ bright sunshine, as soothing as the murmur of bees in clover. She was exactly what Roddy needed. A still, calm, wonderful girl.
OF COURSE it wasn't long before they married, and contrary to everyone’s prognostications, it turned out a very good thing for them both; they suited one another down to the ground. Which seems a dull sort of ending to an otherwise exciting story, but it can’t be helped.
Even O’Keefe and his Doctor Molly settled down and lived happily ever after, in spite of the fact that O’Keefe regained possession of the “melojeon” on the very day after they returned from their honeymoon!
But there is, after all, one spicy little bit of gossip to end up with: Alice Ponsonby, in course of time, captured the affections of a middle-aged widower with a wen on his neck, who, after marriage, developed a passion for playing the flute!