There Is Sorrow on the Sea
NORMA PHILLIPS MUIR
PETER insisted that the trip didn’t really start until we were in Montreal, and seeing that nothing untoward happened from Toronto to Montreal and everything on the calendar happened after we arrived there, I guess he wins.
Of course he puts the blame on me, but if his memory and a sieve weren’t twins in regard to their retentive powers, we wouldn’t have got off to a bad start. Peter had promised to send some fruit, some flowers and some telegrams to my cabin on board ship. I had never had a dream about embarking for Europe that didn’t include those things in the list of essentials.
Not even the novel dignity of being classed as “tourist” can subdue Pokey’s amazing flair for accomplishing the wrong result at the right time. Here she is with Peter and the Rits on the high seas, Liverpool bound. Poor Peter!
“Did you send the stuff to the ship for me?’’ I asked as we left the dining-room of the hotel the night before we were due to sail.
“Jumpin’ Jehoshophat, I clean forgot,” admitted Peter. “Oh, Peter!” I wailed.
“Hold on now. Don’t turn on the tear taps yet,” he cried. “It isn’t too late to send. I can ’phone the order from here and have it put on the hotel bill.”
“If we weren’t in the lobby, dear,” I exclaimed fervently.
"Thank Heaven, we are,” said Peter. “You go on up and get ready for bed and I’ll attend to it now. We’ll have to be up by six-thirty, dear. She sails at ten.”
I got the key and went up, leaving word at the desk for us to be called at six, for I knew we’d need the extra thirty minutes. It’s a good thing I did it, too, or we would never have made the ship.
TT DIDN’T seem that Peter had more than put the light out and called my attention drowsily to the huge cross on the mountain, betöre the telephone jangled in my ear and a voice announced: “Six o’clock, Madam.” “Gosh! Are you sure?” I said sleepily. “Look again, sister!”
“Hey, cut that out,” growled Peter. “What’ll she think?”
“What’ll you think?” I asked the girl, and when I heard her giggle I suddenly realized where I was and why.
“I thank you,” I said haughtily, and rang off. “Oh, Peter, ’Tis the Day,’ ” I said.
“It’s the beginning anyway,” he agreed, and we arose with one accord and began to dress.
We were just ready to go down to breakfast when Peter
suddenly clutched at his forelock and emitted a deep groan.
“Now what?” I cried.
“My Godfrey, I’ve forgotten to get that last James’ report from Miss Jacques,” he said. “I gotta have it.”
“ 'Stoo late,” I told him worriedly.
“Shut up while I try to think,” snapped Peter.
“Try is good.” I said. “If you’d not be so seriously troubled with hindsight you’d—”
“Shush!” he howled.
The Bits stood watching him with awed expressions, and I could almost imagine I saw the dints appearing in my husband’s grey matter. Then he strode to the telephone.
“This is P. Ronald talking, room 9607,” he said. “I want you to get me Miss Jacques, Randolph 4 double 0 67, Toronto. Put that call through at once, will you please, and have me paged in the dining room when it comes. Make it snappy. I’m going at 9.45.”
“Dear at half the price,” I giggled, but Peter merely glared at me and started for the dining room with Joan.
Half way through the meal he was called out, and when he came back he was beaming.
“Got Miss Jacques all right. Guess they called her out of bed. She’s on her way to the office and I’ll have—”
“What good’s that do you?” I asked. “You can’t get the report.”
“She’ll telephone it here to me. I’ll repeat it after herin the presence of the hotel stenographer who'll take it down in shorthand and make me a copy of it at once,” he said. “See?”
“Marvellous,” I agreed. “Suppose you can’t get a stenographer?”
“Playin’ Polly Anna again, ain’t you?” he inquired, but he gulped down his coffee and rushed to the office to
make arrangements while the Bits and I finished a delightful breakfast and went leisurely to the room to find Peter striding around it like a caged hyena.
“We’ve only an hour,” he said. “Daddy play wiv us?” asked Joan. “Daddy’s busy.”
“Never mind,” said Peter. “Laddy said he was busy.”
“But Daddy, where are you busy?” she persisted.
“Y'ou git right up on that chair,” he said, assisting her into it. “and you Jack, in that one. Now. Daddy’s very much worried and he wants you to stay very quiet until he feels better. And if you move,” he finished on a more threatening tone, “I’ll put glue on your chairs!”
“Peter,” I remonstrated.
“I will if I can’t keep them quiet otherwise,” he said, and then he grinned at them, growled that the stenographer ought to be up by now, and rushed out to find out about her, while I went down to the hotel store to buy a box of face powder I’d forgotten.
When I came back, Peter was sitting by the telephone table, drumming impatiently on it with his fingers, and th» Bits were quietly seated as before on their respective chairs. Outside the stenographer was waiting, and suddenly the bell tinkled
“Hooray,” cried Peter, and yanked the receiver off the. hook, signalling for me to call the stenographer.
“Not a word any of you,” he commanded as he was being put through, and, in a death-like silence, Peter took the report, the girl making fly tracks on her pad, and the Eits and I sitting tight, scarcely daring to breathe.
“There,” said Peter, in relief after he had thanked Miss Jacques and rung off. “How soon can I have the typed copy, Miss Green?”
“Ten minutes, sir, fifteen at most.” she said, and Peter rose to open the door for her. At least he started to rise, staggered, stood still a moment, made a second attempt and staggered worse than ever.
“Peter, are you ill, dear?” I cried, rushing to him.
“Keep offa me,” he said, in a deadly ton». “Thank you. Miss Green.”
She left the room and again Peter essayed to rise.
“Peter, dear,” I wailed, “what is the matter?”
“ ’Swat I wanta know,” he hissed. "See if you can discover why me and this chair are inseparable.”
A horrible thought sped through my brain and I cast a fleeting look at my two innocent appearing offspring. They were regarding their father with deep interest and a shade of trepidation.
“Peter,” I faltered as I tried to pul' the chair off of him, “I’m afraid—” and I gave it a tug.
“Hey, cut that out, you’re taking my hide with ya,” he yelled. “What’s made me and this chair such fast friends?”
“It—you seem to be—sorta stuck— ” I ouavered. “Stuck?” he yelled. “How’d I be stuck?”
“I don’t know, dear, let me try one more pull,” I begged.
“One pull and there’ll be a parting of the ways,” he howled. “Hand me that waste-paper basket, Ruth.”
I intercepted a guilty look which passed between Jack and Joan, and with heavy heart I obeyed my husband, and watched him pull an emptied tube of Stickforever glue from it.
“My Godfrey, I’m ruined,” he shrieked. “Hand me those kids one at a time. I crave exercise.”
“I won’t,” I said. “There’ll be plenty of time to attend to them later. Do you realize that the ship sails in less than an hour?”
“How can I realize anything? The seat of reasoning is petrified,” he hissed. “Don’t stand there looking like Woe’s mother-in-law. Get the valet! Get a separator! Get something and get it quick.”
“Yes,” I said numbly, and I told the desk to send the valet to 9607 immediately. “Oh, Peter—” I wailed.
“That’s right, groan and gibber, but don’t on any account try to get me and this chair divorced,” he snarled. “If I ever git outta this fix . . .”
“Say, old man,” he continued in a lighter tone as the valet knocked and was bade to enter, “some way or other a bit of glue got on this chair, and me and it are united. How’re you going to get me off?"
The valet walked round and round the chair and Peter, as they stood for inspection.
“You aren’t judge at a live-stock show, you know,” suggested Peter. “I sail on the Erratic in forty minutes.” “This is my first experience, sir,” said the valet primly. “I—”
“Same here,” snapped Peter.
“I should say maybe hot water would soften it, sir, if—”
“How’re you gonna get me in hot water with this appendage?” groaned Peter. “Think I’m going in paddling in a public park with this hanging closer than a brother? Ain’t I in hot enough water now?”
“If we could get you in the bathroom, sir,” said the valet.
“I’ll get a needle point spray attachment and we’ll see what we can do.”
“Sayitwith speed,” shrieked Peter, almost beside himself.
“Get your spray and a tug to tow me in.
Run, man, run.”
“Bring a saw and file,” I hollered after him. “If the water won’t do we’ll saw off the most and he can soak the rest later.”
“Mind your business,” requested Peter. “Think we’ve got time to dicker with the carpenters’ union? You telephone Doc Wilmot and tell him to taxi down here as quick as the Lord’ll let him with the longest ulster he can get his hands on.”
I did it while Peter sat and communed with the power of light and darkness. He refrained from expressing his opinion of his children. By the time the valet returned with the needle spray Doc Wilmot was on his apoplectic way to the hotel.
Even now I hate to think of Peter’s remarks while the valet and I were steering him and that chair into the bathroom. I really didn’t think we’d ever get him through the door, and while we pushed and pulled and angled him and his associate, he kept up a steady stream of searing comment, interjected every moment with a roar of pain when we worked too zealously.
“Never mind me. Go right ahead and skin me alive,” he shrieked, and then with a final yell from him and a desperate effort on our part he was through the door.
We mounted him on the foot-stool, bent him so that he right-angled over the edge of the tub, and then we applied the needle spray with Peter yelling that he was being scalded, and vowing vengeance on us all.
“Now let it soak a moment and see if it’s own weight won’t loosen it,” suggested the sweating valet.
“Not only do I lose my seat but I busts my back, too," howled Peter, still bent.
“Wouldn’t one good yank do it?” I whispered to the valet.
“If one had the courage,” he shuddered.
“Would it really skin ’im?”
“Not now that everything’s softened,” he whispered. With my jaw set, I tip-toed in.
Peter was balanced precariously in a sort of winged victory attitude over, the tub, only that the wings weren’t in the right place. As I came in he looked up despondently.
“Now what?” he asked.
“Turn around, dear, and let me see how it’s coming,” I said.
“It ain’t coming or going, it’s staying,” he said sadly.
He was right. The glue was still holding, so taking my courage and the chair in both hands I put all my strength into one yank.
“Y-y-yowowowowowow!” roared Peter. “I’m ruined! I’m ruined!”
There was a sound of ripping, and I fell backward through the door with the chair and the seat of Peter’s pants, while he went kersplash into the half filled tub of piping hot water.
“Saved,” I cried.
“Hell’s bells and lava,” he yelled, “I’m scalded,” and he skidded to his feet and flopped over the edge of the tub.
“I freed you,” I gloated.
"I ain’t free. I’ve still got three encumbrances and a duty,” he chattered. “Now look what you’ve done?”
“You’ll dry,” I said. “Mop up and come on.”
“I’m not all here,” he said ruefully, catching sight of part of his suit still clinging to the chair. “You take the Bits and the handbags and go on to the boat. Doc oughta be here with the ulster any minute and I’ll follow. And when I get there I’m going to warm my hands on you kids,” he promised.
There was not time to argue or alter his plans, and the
Bits and I were just pulling away from the hotel with the luggage when I saw another taxi pull up. Out of it fell Doc. Wilmot, an ulster of green and sand checks about three inches square over his arm.
“That’ll sing a chorus that’ll draw all eyes to Peter,” I moaned, and until the taxi stopped in the shed I uttered no word in answer to the incessant queries of my children. Relieved of the bags, I followed the cabin boy to our
stateroom, which was gay with flowers and a huge basket of fruit. The bags were deposited and as I stood looking about, there came a tap at the door and the steward entered.
“I hope everything is comfortable and satisfactory, Lady Ronald,” he said. "If there is anything you wish, just let me know.”
“S-s-s-surely,” I stammered.
"Is your maid near you?” he asked.
“I am traveling without one this time,” I said, evenly.
"Oh, yes,” he said. “Well, if there N anything, Lady Ronald - ” and he bowed himself out.
“Now when was Peter knighted?” I giggled. "There's something fishy about this.”
Still sort of stunned I attempted to refresh myself with sniffing the flowers, and as I did so the card caught my eye. They were addressed to Lady Ronald, care of S.S. Erratic.
"Peter's blooey,” I gasped, and sank into a chair to truand reason it out.
Common sense told me to stay where I was until Peter came to explain matters, but the bustle and excitement lured me to the deck, and the ubiquitous steward led me to our steamer chairs delightfully placed in a sheltered nook on the port side.
I thanked him, expressing my satisfaction at the location he had chosen, put the Bits in their chairs and told them to stay put, and then I wandered to the rail to watch for Peter. It was, of course, lined with folks calling farewell messages to those on the pier, and I was feeling sort of lost and sorry for myself when I heard a voice calling: “Lady Ronald, telegram for Lady Ronald.”
“My godfathers, what now?” I gasped.
For a moment I pondered as to whether I’d claim it or not, and then thinking it might be a message from Peter I turned.
“Here,” I said easily, trying to appear unconcerned.
The people near me took a look, and then turned back to the rail again.
“Three wires for Lady Ronald,” he beamed, and then as I reached for them he threw his bomb.
“Collect,” he said.
I nearly went through the deck, and in that moment I was glad it had been my hand that had disunited Peter and his chair.
“The beggars,” I said, laughing hollowly, “I didn’t think they’d really do it,” and I payed the shot with
murder in my heart and a smile on my lips.
I didn’t open them. I turned back to the rail just as Peter and Doc Wilmot stepped out of a taxi, and watched their approach to the ship’s side. -Just as Doc was about to step on the gang plank he was stopped by the cry, “All ashore!”
“Just a moment, please,” he said, but the man was obdurate. I saw Peter hesitate and then rush up the gang-plank. Leaning over the rail I called out:
He looked up worriedly, located me and came opposite me.
“We’ll send it back from Quebec,” I called “Thanks.” “That’s right, tel! the curious world,” gritted' Peter, whom the Bits had hailed and led to me.
"I’ll tell you a thing or two when I get you alone,” I hissed. "What do you think this is? A musical comedy?”
Peter rolled his eyes wildly, and as the steward approached I took a good hold of myself.
“I just came to see if you were aboard, sir,” he said to Peter, touching his hat. “Hope you and Lady Ronald find your stateroom comfortable, sir,” and he passed on.
“ ’Stoo much,” said Peter, “ ’stoo much. I’ve stood all I can stand without this. Who told you I’d been knighted?”
“Peter, is it true?” I hollered, flinging my arms about him.
Continued on page 1+9
There Is Sorrow on the Sea
Continued from page 13
I felt him grab me and swing me off my feet, but my face was crushed against his borrowed ulster and I couldn’t speak.
“She’s fainted,” I heard him say. “Pardon me—” and then I felt myself being carried down steps, and when I began to struggle, Peter’s voice in my ear hissed:
“Lie still, you nut, or I’ll drop ya on the drink.”
“Gimme air,” I gasped.
“Right here, sir,” said a voice. “Shall I send the stewardess in?”
“No, thanks, but you might have the children taken to the nursery,” said Peter, and then as the door closed he dropped me on the bed.
“Of all the hunks of misery—” he began.
“The only thing I’d be knighted for is bravery in marrying you,” he said. “You—”
“Before you exhaust your vocabulary look at those bouquets,” I said, sitting up and straightening my hat.
“Good gosh!” he exclaimed.
“Exactly,” I said. “Likewise three telegrams sent collect. What you haven’t done to put this trip on the hummer isn’t worth speaking of. What—”
“Now I understand, it’s all that dumb Dora at the telephone,” he gnashed his teeth. “She—”
“Of course you had nothing to do with it,” I said.
“She kept saying, ‘Mr. Ronald,’ ” said Peter, miserably, “and I said, ‘no, not mister, rnissus, and she said “mister,’ and I said ‘No, not mister, lady, d’you get me, lady?’ That’s how it happened.” “Smooth, but too late to be useful,” I said. “How about the wires sent collect?” “That I can’t understand. I told them to put it all on the bill,” said Peter. “Now what’re we gonna do?”
“Brazen it out as Sir Peter and Lady Ronald,” I said, rather pleased with the idea.
“Yes, we isn’t,” stated Peter. “And then meet some of the people in London and have to confess there that we traveled under false pretences? The old brain’s addled, Mrs. Ronald, badly addled.”
“You think up one, then,” I said.
“We’ll just tell the steward it was a practical joke on the part of some friends, and that the wires were a joke, too. He’ll be able to fix it up,” he said. “I’ll go and see that the Bits are all right in the nursery and by the time I come back you’ll have recovered from your faintness and be able to go on deck. And for the luvamud keep outta trouble.”
“Keep on your noisy ulster,” I said. “We’d better get the trunks up soon so you can get into a real suit.”
Peter glared and left the room, and I yanked the cards off the flowers and fruit and awaited his return. Then we went on deck and watched the pier recede from view. The fluttering handkerchiefs became mere wisps in the distance as the gallant little tugs took us into midstream and headed us toward the sea.
“I feel sad,” I said tremulously.
“You’ll feel sadder and with reason if you make a scene,” warned Peter. “You’d better sit down a while and cool off.”
“Get my sea legs,” I said brightly. “Yes, in the river,” he said tartly. “I’m going down to change my suit. The children are in the nursery and it’s a good place for them to stay.”
DY LUNCHEON time Peter was wholly -U clothed again, and had brought up and introduced Mr. and Mrs. Staunton. Mr. Staunton was on a buying trip. We were all friends at once. The deck steward arranged to have their chairs placed beside ours, the joke on us was explained to them, and to the steward, and from the occasional smiling glances turned our way we knew the correction was being circulated. Altogether every-
thing was hunkydory, and I began to be my usual bright and merry self.
“Maybe we can be at a table together,” I said to Mrs. Staunton. The men promised to arrange the matter and went off about it while I found my way to the nursery where the Bits would spend most of their waking hours. I wanted to show them to Mrs. Staunton.
“Now don’t get too gay,” warned Peter later. “It always leads to trouble. And moreover, just because Mrs. Staunton is the only woman you meet with a reference from me, that doesn’t mean you can tell her your grandfather wassa horse-thief.” “Why. Peter Ronald, he was a chief justice—” I gasped.
“I was speaking colloquially,” he said. “I mean don’t tell everything you know. See?”
“No, but I’ll obey,” I said. “Do we get off at Quebec?”
“We can, but I think we won’t,” he said. “I’ll just go ashore long enough to send Doc’s coat back to him.”
“I’m going to take a turn about the deck before I come to bed,” said Peter, about eleven pip emma after Quebec had faded into the distance. We went to our state-room and Peter helped me put the trunks under the beds after he had taken out what we thought we’d need. “You might read a while, I won’t be long.” I undressed, tucked the Bits in, and was just about to get into bed when I noticed that Peter had brought his shaving brush in his favorite container—a quarter pint cream bottle. As a matter of fact it isn’t a bad way to carry it, for the top of the type of brush Peter uses fits snugly into the neck of the bottle, and yet the brush part doesn’t touch the bottom and flatten the bristles. However, I wasn’t going to have a steward find a contraption like that in our room, so I took the brush out and absent-mindedly set the bottle outside the door. Then I got into bed and being tired with all the excitement of the day I didn’t read but went promptly to sleep.
I was awakened by the most awful thump against the door, followed by a shrill shriek, a series of smaller bumps and then a thump—all within the space of a minute. With a yell that matched the one in the corridor I fell out of bed and threw open the door. Peter lay sprawled on the floor while the cream bottle caromed gaily from one side of the corridor to the other, knocking at doors on either side, said doors opening and heads appearing.
“Peter,” I cried, rushing out to help him to his feet.
“Git in or git clothed,” he growled, picking himself up. “Wateha think this is? A Jersey delivery route?”
“Git in!” he howled, shoving me through the door and following. “Now will ya kindly tell me what the idea was of putting that milk bottle outside our door on board ship?”
“I—I—force of habit,” I twittered.
“I wish I could apply a little force where I’d like to make a habit of doing it,” he grated, brushing himself off. “You not only rip the most prominent portion out of my best suit but you incite me to use my only other one for swabbin’ the decks.”
“You looked so f-f-f-unny, dear,” I giggled. “And I never knew one little bottle could make all that noise!”
“Roll over and shush up,” said Peter. “I don’t feel funny even if I have given the ship a laugh. This’s been some day.” “Never mind, deep and peaceful is their sleep, rocked in the c-c-c-” I snickered.
“Wrapped on the corner of the beak,” snorted Peter rubbing his nose solicitously. “Honestly, Pokey, will ya try to make the start the finish?”
“I will,” I promised, and I meant it, too. “Gee, I forgot to say my prayers,” I exclaimed, and jumped out of bed, just as Peter knelt down to get something out of his bag, the result being that my foot
accidently touched him and he plumped into the aforesaid bag with his face instead of his hands.
“Ff-f-oop,” he gurgled. “Gosh all fishhooks, is this a continuous performance?” “That was an accident,” I told him, struggling not to laugh.
“If you got out of bed to say your prayers you might ask the Lord to protect you from the righteous wrath of your husband,” he said. “Honest to pop, Pokey, another wallop from you and I’ll trim you good.”
I began to giggle at the absurdity of it and Peter picked me up, gave me a dirty look and placed me in bed.
“If I hear a peep outa you before the bath steward knocks, I’ll gag you,” he said, and switched off the electric light, much the same as though we „were at home.
WHEN we wakened, the sun was shining gloriously, and the bath steward was at the door.
“Do I hafta have a bath?” I asked my husband.
“Certainly,” he said. “You go now and I’ll stay with the Bits.”
“But suppose something happened while I was in the tub?” I said.
“I shall pray fervently that nothing will,” he said. “If it does don’t.”
“Don’t what?” I asked.
“Don’t do what you first think of doing,” he said. “By that time it’ll be too late to do anything!” With which cryptic utterance he waved me out.
The ladies’ bath in the corridor was just a few feet away, so I didn’t mind much, for in spite of Peter I knew that if anything did happen I could get back to them.
The bath was ready drawn with the tub almost full, and having heard much of the invigorating effects of salt water I began to enjoy the prospect. I stepped in, sat down and leaned back as I always like to do for a few minutes, with my head on the curved part of the foot of the tub. That’s where I made my mistake. Before I could even grab my nose, my feet flew up and I skidded and went under, my eyes, nose and ears filling with the salty water.
“Glubglubgurrrrrgle,” I struggled, and with the first breath I got I opened my mouth and hollered for Peter at the top of my lungs. I tried to get into a right angled position, but the more I struggled the worse I skidded and I went under again. “Peter,” I burbled loudly.
Outside I heard a commotion, a man’s voice and then:
“Ruth—” hollered Peter. “Ruth, let me in.”
“I can’t,” I sobbed. “I’ve gone under twice and I’m all brine and skids. I can’t get out, Peter, and I can’t sit up cause my feet go up and trip me.”
“Ruth,” he said sternly, “listen to me, and do as I tell you. Put your hands on the edge of the tub and hang on tight. Have you done it?”
“Yes,” I sobbed.
“Now just sit steady until you get your breath. Now hang on very tightly and get up carefully. Are you up?”
“Never mind that. Now get out of the tub. Are you out?”
“Yes,” I said after a moment.
There was a murmur of voices. The steward had been attracted by the commotion.
“Ah, Madam is not used to the buoyancy of the water,” he said, and Peter explained that his perspicuity had solved the riddle, and they hung around until I exited from that bath room, and then in a glaring silence Peter led me to our cabin.
“You’re a fine looking article to go to breakfast,” he said, and I shook my hair so that he got nice and damp.
“If you’d only tell me the things I don’t know,” I said in exasperation.
“I can’t talk all the time, dearie,” he said sarcastically, “Why don’t you ask?” “The nearest you get me to a tub on this trip is a finger bowl,” I told him. “I might’ve lost my life.”
“And no paper to advertise it in,” said my husband. “Get dressed and if you can’t do that without having hysterics tell me now and I’ll send for the stewardess. “Is there anything strange about your duds? That is a safety pin, but if you don’t touch it it won’t hurt you. I really can’t see anything else that holds a menace for you.”
“Travel, kid, your nails are rusting,” I said, and Peter went.
I had to have breakfast in our room and
then go to the barber shop for a marcel, and Peter went with me and wouldn’t leave for fear I’d do something to cause another scene. The Bits were in the nursery so we knew they were all right, and Peter and the barber talked about knots and fathoms and logs and charts and mileage and I didn’t get a word in edgewise the whole time.
Then Peter took me to my deck chair and tucked me up and brought my book and leaned down, tenderly it would seem, to hiss:
“If I catch you outta that chair before the lunch gong goes I’ll lick the kids for what they did in Montreal.”
Naturally I stayed put, and that day passed without an untoward event marring it. In fact, when it was announced on the bulletin board late that evening that there would be a dance the next night, Peter came and told me about it. He seemed to have forgotten our poor beginning, and when we went to bed that night his sense of humor had scored a triumph over his sense of propriety and he was ready to chuckle over everything. It was j ust as well he had his laugh then.
NEXT day we played deck quoits and shuffleboard, and everything went along joyously. We took the Bits for a promenade after luncheon and everyone made a fuss over them and they were on their best behavior and Peter had a front like a proud pouter pigeon’s.
We put on our best that night for the dance, and Peter was really quite loverlike, so that I was thrilled and happy when we went down to the ballroom.
“You look about seventeen, honey,” he whispered.
“Then let’s not miss a dance; we never used to,” I said, with an eye to losing a few ounces, and Peter agreed.
The orchestra was wonderful and about half way through they had a moon waltz and Peter and I were getting quite mushy. We ought to have known it was a sign of impending danger, but we didn’t, and then out of a clear sky my ankle turned and threw me. Peter made a clutch for me, skidded into another couple and in his effort to avoid a bad bump he swung, lifting me free of the floor. My feet flew out and caught the other chap a wallop that knocked him off his feet, and when he went down his legs came our way, tripped Peter and we went down, too, with me and the other girl screaming.
Just at the moment we sprawled the lights came on, and we must have looked like the bottom of a rugby scrimmage. Fortunately I was on top, but the other poor girl had both Peter and I piled on her, and the other chap was a floor padding for all of us. We picked ourselves up in the order named, and Peter got me by the arm and yanked me around to anything but waltz time until we were ne.ar a door and then we did a fade-out.
“C’n ya beat it?” he inquired of the sea and stars. “ ’Sat’s all I ask ya, can ya beat it?”
“My ankle, dearest—” I began.
“If it hadn’t been your ankle it’d been your something else,” he snapped. “I’m about fed up. Honest to gosh I am.”
I saw that it would be judicious . . . so I scared up a few tears and a coupla gullups, and Peter begged my pardon and kissed me on the port side and then I sent him for my compact so I could fix up before we went down to dance again and show ’em we were good sports.
I used the compact on my nose and around my eyes where the tears had taken off the powder, and then we went down. The moment we entered the ball room all eyes were on us, and people began to smile and then to laugh.
“Never mind, honey, we’ll show ’em we don’t care,” I said, and turning to Peter I put my arms out for him to take me and dance.
Peter looked at me. His mouth opened and shut automatically, and his eyes rolled around like dice in a box. Then in a moment of perfect silence he spoke^ “Fer the luva cryin’ out loud,” he exclaimed, and in the shout which went up from the merry throng he marched me out of the ball room and along corridors until we reached our stateroom.
“P-p-p-p-eter,” I protested as he dragged me in.
But he merely switched on the light and turned me mirror-ward. What's the use trying to describe me? Peter had brought rouge instead of powder and I had used it liberally! And he had the nerve to blame me.
Continued on page 52
THE next two days I spent very quietly.
Peter saw to that, but I didn’t care, for people never left me alone long and I had quite a little circle near me. Peter said it was the cheapest form of entertainment on the ship, but they seemed to like me.
The fifth day I began to feel sort of unsure of myself. I had thought that if I were going to be sick I’d have done it before, but I guess it was as much because I’d been eating too much as anything, that and the excitement. Mrs. Staunton and I had decided to patronize the gymnasium every day and had teased the instructor into giving us reducing exercises. She had brought her gym bloomers and middy too, and while many of the women came to classes just in their ordinary clothes, they couldn’t do any swinging or bar work, so we had the edge on them.
We were nearly through our class the fifth morning when I heard a number of bells and whistles, and then I heard the word: Fire.
That was enough for me.
“Fire,” I shouted to them all. “Get your life belts and don’t bother about your valuables,” and leading the gang I rushed from the gym, out on deck, past the row of occupied chairs and so down to the cabin, warning all I passed, as did the others.
In forty seconds the ship was in an uproar. I had urged everybody to keep calm and avoid a panic, but when I reappeared on deck with my life-belt on and a twin, similarly garbed under each arm, it was a wild sight which met my gaze. Only about half had their belts, and the others were afraid to go for them. Officers went among us telling us that it was a false alarm and to keep calm, but I knew what they meant, and I was absolutely cool and kept telling everybody near me to keep their heads and prepare for the worst.
“If you feel her listing, grab a chair and jump,” I said with composure, “but jump as far free of the ship as you can so you won’t get caught in the suction.” They smiled wanly and then I had a bright idea.
“Suppose we all stand beside our own chairs,” I said. “Don’t lets have a panic. Remember there is a chair for everybody. And in the meantime—sin:'.”
“What’ll we sing?” they said.
“Where Do We Go From Here Boys!” I said, wanting something bright and cheery, and in another ten seconds they were all singing, their heads up and their voices steady, all except those who had been taught to tremolo.
Just when I was wondering how long we could keep it up, I heard Peter.
“Ruth!” he was calling. “Ruth!”
“Here am I,” I answered him sweetly. “I am with our children, dear.”
“Well,_ I’ll be—” he exclaimed as he caught sight of us all dressed up in our Bobby Frenches, and me with a deck chair pressed between us and the rail. “Go on down and get into some Christian clothes,” he said in disgust.
“What do clothes matter in eternity?” I asked.
“Well, I never saw an angel in gym bloomers,” he said. “There isn’t any fire aboard. There was to have been a crew drill, and some dizzy fool yelled fire and started this show. Here, pry yourself loose from that chair and gimme the Bits.” “Yes, dear,” I said gently.
“Ruth,” he said, when we were in our stateroom, “you weren’t by any chance the one who started this were, ya?”
“Let me think—” I said.
“I knew it,” he spluttered, “I said to myself there’s only one woman on board could have pulled a party like this. Who started the crowd singing that awful thing?”
“So do I,” he grated. “Well, we’re the only one’s who know it anyway. That’s one consolation.”
I didn’t undeceive him. What might have been greatly to my credit was merely opprobrium now, and I felt I’d had all I could stand.
“Now,” said Peter when he had us all unhitched again, “I’m going to take the Bits to the nursery and then you and me are going into conference.”
I lay down wearily, wondering why it was that the bottom seemed to have suddenly fallen out of everything, and when Peter came back I was still wondering.
“Now listen,” he said, in his platform voice. “In all the years we’ve been married and through all the tribulations you have brought me I’ve never laid a hand on you, but so help me Hannah if you pull another stunt on this voyage I’m gonna tan you. Understand?”
“Queer,” I said in a detached voice.—I felt sort of detached—“I don’t quite understand—■”
“Nothing queer about it,” he said. “The only thing I was afraid you’d do on this trip is the one thing you haven’t done. I almost wish you had.”
“And what was that, Peter?” I asked weakly in a voice that sounded far away. “Be sea-sick,” he said.
And then a light broke over me, a greeny, yellowy light. Likewise a sweat broke out over me, and in the same moment I understood why I felt so queer —and then I knew that Peter was about to have his wish.