FICTION

You’re Driving Me Crazy

Moral : Never call your wife a nincompoop— no, not even when you're teaching her to drive a car

ELMIN SPROULE November 1 1938
FICTION

You’re Driving Me Crazy

Moral : Never call your wife a nincompoop— no, not even when you're teaching her to drive a car

ELMIN SPROULE November 1 1938

You’re Driving Me Crazy

Moral : Never call your wife a nincompoop— no, not even when you're teaching her to drive a car

ELMIN SPROULE

IFEEL.” remarked Mrs. McKeever. "as though something were going to happen. Something big.”

The elder McKeevers. seated in the two comfortable old rickety rockers that adorned their front verandah, were enjoying the evening, a surprisingly mild one for so late in September. Between them lay I-ep, flat on his hack, his cumbersome paws dangling limply in the air. Mrs. McKeever mended a rent in Pop’s waterproof windbreaker. while Pop, for want of a better occupation, scratched the flabby folds that did Lep duty as a neck. At Mrs. McKeever’s remark Pop stopped scratching and lœked at her in surprise, while Lep allow'ed himself to roll sideways, landed his feet on the floor with a series of resounding thumps, st(x>d up and also stared at her.

“I’d think. Annie,” said Pop in an aggrieved tone, "that with the first vacation I’ve taken in seven years starting tomorrow, you would feel as if something was going to happen.”

Mrs. McKeever was undisturbed. "No.” she said, biting off a thread end and reaching for the spool, “that isn’t it. I can’t tell whether it’s good or bad. It just feels—well, big. Not that I don’t think it’s grand we’re taking a holiday at last.” she add«!.

“Never could before.” said Pop, propping his feet on the hack of Lep. who promptly eas«l himself of the burden by the simple procedure of sitting down. “Couldn’t leave the office now if it wasn’t for Miss Snelgrove. What a girl she is! A wonder; absolutely a wonder!”

Mrs. McKeever remained silent. The wonders of Miss Snelgrove left her. after six months familiarity with them, completely cold. In fact, she felt more than a trace of annoyance at the thought of a holiday made possible only by the presence in Pop’s office of Miss Snelgrove.

Not that she hadn’t been glad enough, at first, when Miss Snelgrove came to work for Pop. She had put an end to the series of hopeful hirings and indignant firings that had attended Pop’s decision to take unto himself a secretary; and she had changed his growing belief that business women were stupid on purpose and out of sheer perversity, to the established belief that he. Pop, had discovered the only one in the world who wasn’t.

But in a very short space of time Mrs. McKeever had come to look on Miss Snelgrove as a not unmixed blessing.

They were to have her. it seemed, with every evening meal, and occasionally, when time permitted, with breakfast. There came a clay when Snellie, in the absence of Mr. McKeever, actually brought a fractious client to the point of reason in a way that Mr. McKeever couldn’t have done himself, and Pop’s praises got downright sickening. Then had come the time when Pop arrived home moaning with a toothache, and Mrs. McKeever’s offer to telephone for a dental appointment had been met with the announcement that Snellie had already performed that service.

The cake w'as taken, however, finally and completely, when Mrs. McKeever met Snellie at the shirt counter in Pop’s favorite haberdashery, engaged in carrying out Pop’s orders to take a long lunch hour and pick him up some shirts. There had ensued something of an altercation, during which Mrs. McKeever, laughing in a tight-lipped way, had insisted that Miss Snelgrove shouldn’t bother, she always bought Pop’s shirts; and Miss Snelgrove countered that she should do it this time, because she’d been told to, and because Mr. McKeever wanted a fresh shirt to wear that afternoon. Mrs. McKeever finally did the actual purchasing, had one shirt parcelled separately and allowed it to be taken to Pop. Then she reached the conclusion that, although Miss Snelgrove might be at least some of what Pop claimed for her, she didn’t particularly care for girls of her type.

CHE wonder«! idly for a moment or two if the "big” thing k-' that was hanging over her could possibly mean that Miss Snelgrove w'as going to break a leg. or even her neck. Having partly exhausted the savor of this, her mind diverged to the thought that, while the holiday in prospect w'as perhaps not such as she would have chosen for herself, it was undoubtedly satisfactory to Pop. Just why a person so militant in the matter of comfort around the house should look forward to sleeping in a log cabin in the middle of the woods for the sake of lying in a wet marsh for two weeks for the sake of shooting a few inoffensive ducks that could be bought at the butcher shop anyway, Mrs. McKeever might be excused for wondering. But it w’as enough for her that Pop w'as looking forward to it, and the fact that he’d asked her to accompany him on this thoroughly mannish expedition gave a delightful little fillip to her vanity. She finished off the thread and gave the windbreaker a little pat. “There,” she said, “tomorrow at this time you'll be wearing it.”

“Won’t I. though!” agreed Pop. “Just think—wind in the pine woods, the lake full of ripples, and the ducks old Fred's shot today roasted à la Annie! I can taste roast duck already.” Then he added with a sidelong glance at his wife. “It would be perfect, if we were going in Lulu.” Mrs. McKeever glanced down at the glittering new car parked before the McKeever front gate, then backed her thoughts into the garage at the rear where rested Lulu. Pop’s ancient private automobile. When her son, Wilfrid, had won an award that had resulted in the purchase of the new car, it had not occurred to any member of the family that Pop would do other than dispose of Lulu. How wrong they were they discovered the day the new car was delivered, when Pop, having worked himself into a towering rage at the mere idea of Lulu being disposed of, further decreed that the garage belonged, by right of occupancy or any other reason they liked, to Lulu, and that the new car could sleep in the street or the back yard or in one of the apple trees, for all he cared. There had been a typical McKeever battle, from which Lulu emerged in possession of the garage and after which Wilfrid received an emphatic cuff on the ear. Wilfrid had announced his capitulation by expressing the opinion that Lulu had better keep the garage anyway, since everyone knew that as soon as Pop closed the doors on her, the darn ol’ junk heap lay down !

Mrs. McKeever had flatly stated that if Lulu were going on the holiday, she, Mrs. McKeever, was staying at home. She had held to this decision, and Pop’s sidelong glance and added remark were made, justifiably, without much hope.

“No,” said Mrs. McKeever, “it’s too long a drive to take in that old—in Lulu. Especially when we can go in a lovely, comfortable new car.”

“Hummp!” growled Pop. “Lulu would go over those roads like a bird.”

“You know,” interrupted Mrs. McKeever, “I wish I could drive. It would be nice if I could take turns, so you wouldn’t get so tired. Couldn't you teach me on Lulu?”

“I should say not,” said Pop firmly. “But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t learn now you have the other car to learn on. You might get along all right. Miss Snelgrove handles a car beautifully.”

Mrs. McKeever uttered a remarkable and completely indescribable sound. Then she got up. “I’ll take my first lesson right now, if you don’t mind,” she said. “Just wait till I get my hat.”

NOW,” said Pop, “that’s the starter. Turn the key there. Then press the starter.”

Mrs. McKeever turned the key and pressed the starter. The new car responded instantly. Mrs. McKeever grasped the wheel tightly.

“Now,” said Pop, “let out your clutch.”

Mrs. McKeever obligingly loosened her grip on the wheel. “Why?” she asked. “What does that do?”

Mr. McKeever sighed, and mentally kicked himself for having mentioned Miss Snelgrove.

“No, Annie.” he said gently. “Put your foot on that pedal and push it all the way down. That’s right. Now,

take the gear lever, here, and pull it back like this. Now let in the pedal, that’s the clutch, very, very slowly.”

Mrs. McKeever commenced to let in the clutch very, very slowly. The Niagara River is causing its banks to recede with lightning speed compared to the speed at which the clutch was being let in. Pop began to get a little bored. “Not quite that slowly.” he said.

Whereupon Mrs. McKeever took her foot off the pedal and the car plunged forward in a series of hacking leaps. Lep. an expression of grave doubt upon his usually vacant face, watched it level down and proceed, at a speed of approximately nine miles an hour, down the street. Then he climbed the verandah steps, crossed to where Mr. McKeever’s windbreaker lay upon the floor, sat down upon it and howled dismally.

Some half an hour later the McKeevers’ new car. still in an unscathed condition, might have been seen descending Stanton Street hill at a rather dizzy rate, considering the double car tracks and considerable traffic of that thoroughfare. Inside the car, Mr. McKeever, his face purple and covered with perspiration, would under other circumstances have impressed an observer as being at least a little drunk.

“Annie!” he bellowed. “You’re going too fast. Throw out the clutch and put on the brake.”

“No!” replied his wife. “Last time I did that it stopped. Then I had to shift gears. I don’t know why you’re so frightened; we haven't hit a thing. I can see where I'm going; there’s nothing coming toward us.”

Death, in Mr. McKeever’s opinion, was coming toward them. Cross streets flashed by with horrifying speed. To apply the emergency brake might either pile something into them behind, or swerve the car out of Annie’s inexperienced hands. They gaily sideswiped a truck, missed a right-angle collision at an intersection by a matter of inches, ruffled the chin whiskers of a cart horse starting too obliquely away from the curb, and mercifully slackened speed as the hill flattened out.

“There!” said Mrs. McKeever, relaxing. “Didn’t I do that nicely?”

“Annie.” implored Mr. McKeever, “for the last time, either pull in to the curb and let me take it, or get onto a side street.”

Something in his tone broke through Mrs. McKeever’s confidence. “Oh, all right,” she said crossly, and swerved directly across the street, causing a number of street-car passengers to be thrown roughly forward in their seats, and a stout middle-aged woman, laden with groceries, to do a hop-skitter dance that would no doubt have surprised her relatives.

As Stanton Street runs lengthwise down what was once a large ravine, its cross streets run up the sides of this defile. The McKeevers were therefore faced with a shorter, but considerably sharper hill than the one they had just descended. 1 Ialfway up this, the car commenced to stutter.

“Shift into second, like I showed you,” commanded Mr. McKeever.

'Kyf RS. McKEEVER had been somewhat shaken by the -‘•^A enraged clanging of the street car in front of which she had clipped, and by the screams of the middle-aged woman. She hesitated a moment, during which moment

the car almost reached a stop. Then she shifted, as she hoped, into second. The car, with the gears in reverse, obeyed its natural impulse to start backing down the hill. Mrs. McKeever, having up till now gained only accelerated forward movement by stepping on the gas, stepped hard thereon, and the McKeevers shot backward and downward with a frantic burst of speed. Mr. McKeever, a frenzied glance through the rear window having shown him that a sprightly yellow roadster was climbing rapidly up behind him. jerked the steering wheel around and shot the back end of the car toward the ditch and then, rather belatedly, hauled on the emergency brake. There was a grinding crunch as the rear fender buckled under and a smell of burning rubber enveloped them.

“Annie!” bellowed Mr. McKeever hoarsely. “You’re a silly nincompoop !” At this inauspicious moment the yellow roadster came to a stop beside them. “Why, Mr. McKeever,” came the quiet, efficient voice of Miss Snelgrove from behind its wheel, “shall I go and telephone your garage for you?”

Mrs. McKeever had been struck dumb by the sudden stop, and dumber by Mr. McKeever’s remark to her. She found her voice now, however.

“You go and phone your aunt’s cat!” she commanded Miss Snelgrove, in a by no means grateful tone.

Mr. McKeever regarded her balefully. “After what you’ve done! Shame on you, Annie! And let me tell you you’re never going to lay hands on the wheel of a car again -—never, do you understand?”

“That settles it,” announced Mrs. McKeever. somewhat incomprehensibly. She Pxk up her purse from beside her, opened the dxr and got out of the car-a difficult feat as the door opened only part way and the top of the ditch was a considerable step in'). Then she started off, a bit shakily, down the hill.

Miss Snelgrove, realizing that this was no time to stay around and lx* efficient, whirred off. Mr. McKeever started the car and got it out into the middle of the road. Then he hesitated in momentary bewilderment. Mrs. McKeever was trotting rapidly down the hill. To turn around in so narrow a street would require considerable backing and filling. Mr. McKeever therefore put the car in reverse and continued the rearward descent. About half a block away from Stanton Street, he backed past Mrs. McKeever.

“Annie,” he called, “I’m sorry.”

Mrs. McKeever avert«! her face and walked on. Pop backed up a bit more.

“Come on, Annie,” he pleaded. “Get in and we’ll go home.”

“Never,” sait! Mrs. McKeever shortly.

Mr. McKeever backed into Stanton Street. To the motorman of a rapidly descending street car, he appeared to be going to back right across, and the street car was brought to a grinding stop. Mrs. McKeever tk advantage of this stop to dart swiftly aboard the car. To the tune of imprecations from the motorman, who could think of simpler ways of catching a car, she was borne swiftly away.

Only slightly ruffled, she negotiated the purchase of tickets, dropped one in the box. accepted a transfer slip, noted that she was the only passenger and tx)k a seat amidships. Not until the car had rumbled on for perhaps a block did reaction from the strain she had been under set in. Her shoulders commenced to heave a little, then to shake. Sickening tremors ran up her from her toes, and chilly perspiration broke out all over her. Suddenly she found she was crying. Fumbling in her hag for a hanky, she managed to spill certain of the bag's contents onto the floor. As she bent down to pick them up. the street car came to a stop, whereupon her head bumped hard into the seat in front. Blindly she felt around and recovered the dropped articles and then resumed her seat, to discover that two men had taken the one directly in front. “Oh dear, oh dear,” she thought miserably, fighting back the sobs that racked her. “I hope they didn’t notice anything. Oh dear. I hope I'm not going to have a stroke.”

One of the men unfolded a newspaper. On the front page it bore the rather unpleasant likeness of a certain aspiring ixilitician. “Do you think.” enquired his companion, “that fellow’s going to get us anywhere?” The owner of the paper laughed. “Naw.” he said loudly. “Just a nincompoop, like all the rest.”

Nincompoop! Mrs. McKeever straightened up with a jerk. She stopped crying. She was suddenly, coldly, completely calm. During the rest of the trip she did shudder convulsively two or three times, but had you seen her debarking at her transfer point, or again in front of her home, you would have thought her simply a rather dignified lady who had just spent

a soothing hour or two at a somewhat sad movie. So well in hand did she have herself that, despite the fact that the sight of the new car parked before the gate caused her stomach to do a complete double somersault. she walked steadily past it, through the gate and up the verandah steps. As she opened the door, Wilfrid hurled himself upon her.

“Mom!” wailed that party in considerable agitation. “Did you see what Pop’s gone and done to my car? Did you just see it. Mom !”

“Your car!” the raucous voice of Mr. McKeever boomed from the kitchen. “I've told you a dozen times it’s not your car. Go to bed !”

“It is, too, my car. At any rate, it’s security for my and Lep’s money we gave you to buy it. Gosh, Mom. it’s the only security we got and just look what he’s—”

“You’ll get more than security in a minute.” interrupted the voice. “Go to bed !"

Mrs. McKeever patted Wilfrid’s cheek. “Go along to bed. dear,” she said. “Your father didn’t mean to do it.”

“Well, of all the ...” spluttered the elder McKeever, and stopped for lack of words sufficiently explosive.

Mrs. McKeever climbed the stairs after Wilfrid, repaired to her bedroom and removed her hat and gloves. Then she descended to the kitchen by the back stairway, stalked grimly past her husband to the sink, poured herself a glass of water, rather ostentatiously downed it. set the glass aside and returned up the stairway.

“Annie.” said Mr. McKeever pleadingly to her retreating back, “what time do you think we should start tomorrow? Annie!” Although the last word resembled in pitch and volume the sound that would be made by a rifle bullet striking a suspended wash boiler, sudden deafness seemed to have overtaken Mrs. McKeever. She reappeared no more that night. Pop, after a disgusted survey of a seemingly newsless newspaper, went to his room, got into bed and. surprisingly, immediately fell sound asleep.

THE PALE pink dawn lay softly on the world when Pop rose, looked out of his window and then stretched himself luxuriously. He had slept unusually well, and the troubles of the night before seemed small and far away. A merry-hearted bird trilled at him from one of the apple trees.

“Thanks, fellah,” replied Pop. “We’re going to have a great time.” He investigated the possibility of touching his fingers to his toes—success attending his third attempt—donned his bathrobe and repaired noisily to the bathroom. There he turned the shower on, full and cold, got under it with a yell, and climaxed his lack of consideration by breaking into song. Some time later, attired in what Pauline called his Daniel Boone outfit, he tapped at Mrs. McKeever's door.

“Nearly ready, Annie?” he called.

The silence of the grave greeted him from within. Mrs. McKeever, who had slept but spottily through the night and not at all since Pop had arisen, now closed her eyes, composed her face, and commenced “regular” breathing of an intensity that suggested some advanced lung trouble rather than sleep. Mr. McKeever opened lier door, peeked in and then went to the foot of the bed. He noted, with some apprehension, the absence of the curlpapers which customarily marked the night before an excursion of any kind.

“Come on, Annie.” he said gently. “1 can tell you aren’t asleep.”

The breathing became positively stertorous. Mr. McKeever shook the bed a little.

“Stop that,” said Mrs. McKeever, by no means drowsily. “Stop it and go away!” “But, Annie, aren’t you coming?”

“I am not.”

“Oh, come now, Annie. Just think how disappointed old Fred will be. He went up there yesterday just to get ducks so they’d be ready to cook the minute you get there.”

“Nice of him, I must say !”

“Annie, what would the children think?” “What would the children think,” enquired Mrs. McKeever, “if they’d heard their mother called a silly nincompoop?” “Well, they didn’t hear it,” stated Mr. McKeever, “and I’ve said I’m sorry.”

“And I’ve said I’m not going,” said Mrs. McKeever, indicating by turning over on her stomach and burying her nose in the pillows that the interview was over. Mr. McKeever left the room and closed the door after him. He hesitated with his hand on the knob. It had, he figured, worked before, so he opened the door again and poked his head in.

“Well,” he said, with a heavy attempt at jocularity, “then I guess I'll just have to take Miss Snelgrove.”

A second later he went hurriedly down the stairs. Just where in the world, he wondered dazedly, had his wife picked up an expression like that !

Later, leaving an upheaval in the kitchen that bore solemn witness to the fact that he had got his own breakfast. Pop drove a heavily laden Lulu out of the garage and pointed her nose toward the North and the pine woods. Whereupon Mrs. McKeever. who had experienced a last-minute reversal of feeling and run to the window to shout that she was coming with him, sat down on her bed and indulged in a thoroughly satisfying cry.

THE DAY dragged by rather drearily.

Mrs. McKeever decidied while dressing to adopt the attitude that nothing had

happened. A mixture of remorse and selfpity created in her an urge to be particularly gentle to the children. Unfortunately, she rather overplayed it. Emmy-May, Wilfrid and Pauline, being neither deaf nor unobservant, were well aware that something had happened. They held a solemn conclave in Emmy-May’s bedroom, and decided on a course of behavior that proved exactly similar to their mother’s to act as though Pop’s lonely departure had been intended all the time. Due. in part, to Wilfrid’s smoldering irritation at his father's treatment of the car. sympathy gravitated toward Mrs. McKeever, with the result that they all resolved to be more than ordinarily considerate and cheerful.

Rather an overplus of the milk of human kindness was therefore spilled during the day. and toward evening the nerves of the family became a trifle frayed. Pauline refused a drive with Martin, and insisted on getting dinner so that her mother might rest. Rest, with its consequent opportunity to brood, was the last thing Mrs. McKeever wanted, and her gratitude was rather unspontaneous. She further increased the strain by invading the kitchen at ten-minute intervals to see how Pauline was getting along. Pauline, whose interest in cooking was practically nil, was not getting along, and the knowledge did neither her nor her mother’s state of mind much good.

After dinner Wilfrid took it upon himself, in a surge of affection, to shatter the peace of the Sunday afternoon by mowing the entire front lawn. Emmy-May contributed to the wave of extra goodness by catching up on her neglected piano practice, and concentrated some three and a half hours practically entirely on scales and exercises.

It was small wonder, therefore, that when Pauline decided in the evening that she would go for just a tiny run with Martin, Emmy-May departed to visit Mary Robinson for just a minute, and Wilfrid ran out to get a book from Shorty Gillis and come right back, Mrs. McKeever regarded her sudden aloneness with something akin to joy. She seated herself in a rocker on the verandah and penitently darned Pop’s socks. Sock-darning is not. usually, a soothing occupation, but Mrs. McKeever had had a hard day. She became suddenly so drowsy that she put the socks aside and lay down on the living room sofa, where she promptly fell asleep.

About an hour later the ringing telephone awakened her. After several unanswered rings she realized she was still alone in the house and answered it. Still drowsy, she received the information that long distance, Blairmont, was calling Mrs. McKeever, and then Uncle Fred’s agitated voice banished her sleepiness. Through the sputtering and racket that is more than likely to attend any important longdistance call, she learned that Pop had been hurt, that he was in the Blairmont hospital and that he was asking for her. Uncle Fred gave her instructions regarding trains, informed her that she’d just missed one but that there should be another later, tried to soothe her by telling her that Pop wasn’t badly hurt, and threw her into a panic by urging her to hurry.

Mrs. McKeever hung up the receiver and dashed into the kitchen There she momentarily grasped the edge of the kitchen table to steady herself. Then she hurriedly climbed the stairs to her bedroom, jammed her hat askew on her head and snatched up her purse. Back in the kitchen, she scribbled a note to Pauline, trying to give her the news without frightening her. Out on the front verandah she stopped, with the sickening realization that she had forgotten what Uncle Fred said about trains. Never mind, she knew where the station was, and if there wasn’t a train right away she would wait. Wait! What if that waiting meant ... ?

Suddenly her eyes fell on the new car. Should she—could she . . . Mrs. McKeever became a reasoning person. She dashed back into the house and up to Pop’s bedroom. There she went through the suit he had worn the day before,

I found the key to the new car and hurried : down again. She opened the car, settled herself under the wheel, inserted and turned the key and pressed the starter.

SHE HAD been up to the cabin by the Blairmont route twice that summer i with Pop and, although under ordinary circumstances the way to get there would have been enshrouded in considerable fog. it was now divinely clear to her. She started off with only a minimum of bucking, sailed with a moderately heartbreaking shift into second, and a com' pletely noiseless one into high. She crossed Stanton Street without the customary preliminary stop, entirely unmindful of the startled bellow of the traffic policeman, who escaped slaughter by a hairsbreadth and recovered too late to take her number. She traversed a district of small intricate streets, and at last reached the highway. Here she discovered that the faster she went the easier the car seemed to handle.

Only once did the terrors of driving break through lier terror regarding Pop. A toll bridge loomed up in the distance, a narrow affair with the ticket taker’s stand forming a hazard in the centre of the entrance. To Mrs. McKeever, as she approached it, the lane on either side seemed far too narrow for a car to pass. In her fright she stalled neatly about fifteen feet from the ticket taker, who dropped the hand he had made ready for a fleeting snatch at her ticket and stared. Mrs. McKeever started the car, and the man again extended his hand. As she stepped too timidly on the gas, the car again stalled, whereupon the hand dropped, and was raised again in a hurry as the car plunged past. The hand remained empty and Mrs. McKeever, deciding that she was too far past him to stop, continued on her way. Whereupon the ticket taker si>eedily phoned his partner at the other end of the bridge, who leapt to the edge of the stand in time to hold up his hand— this time as a stop signal to the oncoming car. As it went by him. something banged hard into the upraised hand, which automatically closed upon what the ticket taker discovered to lx: a dollar bill. After which the two ticket takers got each other on the phone again and relieved themselves, in chorus, of a number of choice comments regarding women driving cars and otherwist*.

Arrived in Blairmont, Mrs. McKeever looked around for a hospital. There was none in sight. Spotting a rustic-looking pedestrian wisely waiting for her to pass before he completed crossing the street, she swooped down upon him. Without waiting for him to recover from his frantic

backward leap to the curb, she implored him to tell her where the hospital was.

“Lady,” said the individual, gasping for breath, “it’s kind of you to ask—but you missed me.”

“Please,” said Mrs. McKeever, “please tell me. My husband—I’m—oh, please tell me.”

The pedestrian, sensing her distress, pointed out the hospital at the end of the street. It was merely a large converted house, with a wide semicircle of driveway before it. Just as Mrs. McKeever swung into this latter, a certain Dr. Doonan descended the last of the steps and, still chuckling to himself over the comment of the boy-desiring father whom he had just seen presented with girl twins, stepped absent-mindedly into the drive. Luck alone saved him, but he opened the door and gallantly handed Mrs. McKeever out of the car. “Madam,” he said calmly, “I must inform you that I’m one of the staff, and we’re fairly crowded anyway.”

This news was lost on Mrs. McKeever. “I’m Mrs. McKeever,” she faltered. “Could you tell me where Mr. McKeever —if Mr. McKeever . .

The doctor, grave-faced now, took her arm gently and led her up the stairs. “Yes,” he said, “Mr. McKeever’s here. Just see the nurse at the desk over there.”

UNCLE FRED was standing silently beside Pop’s bed. He looked in amazement at Mrs. McKeever as she entered the room with the nurse. “You here already, Annie,” he began, and then stopped, realizing that Annie didn’t hear him or even see him. She was staring, terrified, at Pop’s face, so still upon the pillows. “Pop,” she said softly.

Pop did not stir. Annie put out a hand to touch the knotted one that lay upon the sheet, and hesitated, transfixed. The nurse touched her gently on the shoulder. "Don’t be afraid. Mrs. McKeever,” she said, “Tally he isn’t in danger. He’s just very drowsy because we gave him something to take the pain away. There’s really no need ...”

Unseen by Mrs. McKeever, Uncle Fred grasped the nurse’s arm, rather hard. Taie to her profession, she showed no disturbance and continued smoothly with, “You may stay with him now, if you like. He’ll probably awaken soon,” and departed, propelled by Uncle Fred.

Annie stood looking down at Pop, stroking his hand gently and tremulously, over and over again. Suddenly Pop’s eyelids flickered and he stirred uneasily. He opened his eyes and looked hazily around the room. He saw Annie. “Hello,” he croaked weakly. “You got here, Annie?” Mrs. McKeever felt suddenly like

sitting down flat on the floor. She grasped the bedside table with her free hand and held onto it. Tears commenced to run down her cheeks. “Oh, Pop,” she whispered. “Oh, Pop . . . Oh, Pop.”

Pop laughed weakly. “It’s all right, Annie,” he said with difficulty. “Fellah smashed into Lulu—all his fault. But I’m going to be—quite—all right, dear.”

“Of course you are, dear. Now go to sleep again. You mustn’t talk, you know.” “Suppose not.” agreed Pop, finding obedience more than easy at the moment. On the brink of dreamland he roused himself slightly. “How did you get here—so fast—Annie?” he asked.

“I drove up—” commenced Mrs. McKeever, and stopped in horror at the realization that her remark would probably excite him. It did.

“You what?” barked Pop, throwing hack the covers and jumping out of bed. Mrs. McKeever shrieked and then recovered herself. Pop was clad in a hospital nightshirt, but except for a slight adhesive strapping over his left ankle, there appeared to be nothing wrong with him—physically, that is.

The nurse entered the room at a run, having heard Mrs. McKeever’s scream. Unde Fred followed on her heels. She paused at the sight of her patient in a vertical position and then turned to Mrs. McKeever. “As I was going to tell you,” said she, “there’s no need for him to be in bed. And he certainly didn’t need a hypo, but he insisted on having one.” “Pop,” said the still stricken Mrs. McKeever. “What in goodness’ name does all this mean?”

It was Uncle Fred who answered. “Well, Annie, Pop kind of spoiled things by getting out of bed. Guess he’s not much of an actor, after all.” Here he slapped Pop on the back of the nightshirt. “We drove down to the village to get some stuff and a feller did slap into Lulu a little. Pop was so mad he didn’t notice how he got out, and he slipped and hurt his ankle. That gave us the idea and—well, jeepers creepers, Annie, you didn’t expect us to roast those ducks ourselves!”

A tiny smile was beginning to play about Mrs. McKeever’s mouth. With a light step she went toward the door. There she paused and looked back, almost coyly, over her shoulder. “You better get dressed,” she informed Mr. McKeever.

“Annie,” said that party, “who drove you up here?”

Mrs. McKeever hesitated. “You better hurry,” she said finally. “I’m anxious to see the cabin again. Who drove me up here? Well, you can be sure of one thing— it wasn’t your marvellous Miss Snelgrove!”