CHEESE

HENRY HOLT August 1 1922

CHEESE

HENRY HOLT August 1 1922

CHEESE

HENRY HOLT

PERHAPS it was due to a long-dormant germ idea handed down from some remote adventurous ancestor: perhaps Peter Wendle had merely been reading something which hadn’t agreed with him. But in his fortysecond year, while tackling his first breakfast egg, he made a remark that startled Annabel, his lawful, wedded wife.

“Annabel,” said he, “for two pins 1 could start out on a life of adventure.”

Peter put his egg-spoon down and that almost gave his speech an atmosphere of drama. If you or I put down a n egg-spoon at breakfast when we said anything forcefully, it might not signify much beyond a slight matutinal attack of liver: but Peter Wendle never had been emphatic, for which reason Annabel now felt as surprised as she looked. -

“Finish your breakfast, dear. You’ll be late,” she answered. “What do you mean?”

Peter resumed routine with the egg, but between bites tried to explain that which he did not understand.

“Nothing exciting ever happens in my life,” he declared. “It’s all like eating eggs—the same thing over and over again.

Don’t misunderstand me dear, I’m not tired of you. You’re the only woman in the world for me. For fifteen years you’ve been the best wife man could ask for. I’ve acknowledged dozens of times that I should never have arrived where I am if it hadn’t been for you. Right from the first you induced me to put my shoulder to the wheel, and to-day I could sign my check for five figures and carry on without being seriously upset. But that isn’t adventure, Annabel.”

“Whatever has got into your head, Peter?” Mrs. Wendle asked. “There’s nothing gone wrong with the cheese business, has there?”

“No, my dear, nothing—but cheese! I’m tired of the sound of the word. For eighteen years now I’ve lived on cheese. I think about it first thing when I wake up. All day long I deal in cheese and nothing but cheese. I’m getting to the state where I dream about cheese. Damn cheese!”

THERE are remarks to which no reply is helpful, discreet or even soothing. For two minutes Annabel Wendle wisely held silence while her husband sought adventure in another egg.

“Perhaps you need a vacation, Pete,” she suggested. He didn’t look unamiable, so she pursued gently: “I

don’t think really, dear, you would have done better in any other business. Anyway, it’s too late to think of making a change. Cheese has treated you pretty well.” Again Peter put down his spoon, and from the impressive way he did it Annabel saw that something momentous was coming.

“You know that when I say a thing I mean it,” he began. “I’ve got to the stage when I could sometimes scream at the mention of that darn word cheese. To me it spells everything that is deadly monotonous. I’ve got imagination, my dear, and one can’t exercise imagination on cheese. I'm just aching to do something desperate. Some fellows get adventure in their business. Never mind Corsican brigands and aviators. Look at the great explorers, and jockeys and pearl divers and Wall Street speculators, and—”

“But, dear, you can’t lie a pearl diver, and explorers are generally—”

“Pshaw! There’s nothing at all in cheese except an income. Nothing romantic could happen. I’ve sometimes felt lately as though I should go off my head if I didn’t get out of this everlasting ordered routine. I’d like to feel that things out of the ordinary hinged on what I did, whether it was buying a salt mine in Russia or owning a horse that was well up to the front at the end of a race for big stakes or—”

Peter paused, his imagination not actively volcanic at the moment.

“But, my dear, every cobbler does best in the long run if he sticks to his last.” Annabel meant well, but she wasn’t used to Peter with one leg over the traces, and the

ning. I don’t believe I’ve really lived until now. Why I feel like a bird that has just got out of its cage. This is adventure. Annabel, if a pirate captain came up to me and asked me to join him on an expedition against Chinese junks in the Sulu Sea, I believe I’d leap at the chance.”

•“Leaving me here wondering whether your underclothing was getting properly aired and your buttons sewed on?” put in Mrs. Wendle.

“Not in a thousand years,” declared Peter solemnly. “If I go as a pirate, you go as a piratess. If it isn’t good enough for you, it isn’t good enough for me, that’s all. Annabel, I’m arranging things so that I can run away from cheese for a while—a real vacation. Only, instead of going to some ordinary resort and spending money, I’m going to be a bold, bad buccaneer.” \“What on earth do you mean, Pete?”

“My dear, I’m going to have the time of my life. You watch! Anything, from cornering silkworms, to gambling at Monte Carlo. Yes, there’s an idea. We’ll have a shot at breaking the bank there among other stunts. Just for once in my life I’m going to make things hum, and I’ve got a conviction that I’m riding on the tide that flows on to fortune.”

“Pete, you're mad!”

“Perhaps I am, but I’m going to make a mighty splash. Don’t be afraid; I’m not going to risk everything. I’m just going to let myself loose for about a couple of months and taste blood. To-day I put fifty plunks on a horse and if it wins to-morrow I shall clear about a hundred. That’ll be six hundred in two days—enough to pay all our expenses—”

“But if it loses, Pete—”

“That horse couldn’t lose if it turned round and went backward. It’s carrying my money, and I tell you my luck’s in.” ~~

NEXT afternoon Peter sent the office boy up to his home with a note. Annabel read it with a tinge of joy for Peter’s sake, because she always wanted him to be happy, and a tinge of motherly fear for him because nobody knew better than she how hard he had worked to garner the money he had. She read:

My horse won. Start packing. We leave to-morrow for New York. I feel as if I could give Midas points at his own game.

And on the morrow Mr. and Mrs. Peter Wendle, leaving their home in Manchester, New Hampshire, settled down in a palatial New York hotel where Annabel felt it cost about fifty cents to take each breath. And Peter celebrated their advent by laying out five hundred dollars on something he called “futures.” At noon next day he dashed away from the hotel in a taxi-cab, and dashed back to announce that he had cleared out of “futures,” leaving a net balance of one hundred and thirty dollars to the good.

“And now,” said Annabel patiently, “if you’re wise you’ll stop speculating. Let’s go to some place on Long Island and forget all about—”

“Good Lord, Annabel, I’m just getting into my second wind. Besides, I^je had passports made out and I’m making reservations on a steamer for France. Didn’t I tell you we’re going to Monte Carlo? And if anyone utters the word cheese in my presence now I’ll brain ’em where they stand. I was talking to that fat man over there—the one with a diamond as big as a walnut in his ring—and he told me about some oil shares that are going to soar like a rocket. The horse I backed last time is running again to-morrow, and I’m going to have another little flier on him, for luck.”

'TpHE horse won, bringing three hundred dollars to the A bold, bad buccaneer: and a voice that sounded strangely unsympathetic on the telephone, informed

simple truth stirred him as nothing else could have.

“You and I agreed, didn’t we,” he said, “that when I’ve made another fifteen thousand dollars I’ll retire from business. If things go on satisfactorily—I say ‘if they do— I may have that other fifteen thousand in about seven or eight years. That’ll bring me pretty close to fifty years of age. And by then neither you nor I will be young enough to enjoy all those things that we’ve talked about doing when the time comes. We’ll be a couple of old fogies, worked out, trying to snatch at life after we’re too old to appreciate it. Now, if I could only make one quick, exciting deal, such as a daring raid on the Stock Exchange, I’ve got a hunch that I should be lucky. And then I’d never be compelled to think hard about cheese again as long as I remained on earth.”

Annabel fiddled with her cup and saucer.

“Your father,” she said carefully, “was a wise old man, and he used to say that when anyone plunged into unfamiliar business speculations he was heading straight for the bankruptcy court.”

Peter came round the table to kiss his wife good-bye before he set out for the office.

“Yes,” he agreed, “but. if my father had spent eighteen years up to the neck in cheese, I fancy he’d have sung a different tune.”

'T'HAT night when Peter returned home he announced A with the air of a slightly guilty school boy, that he had telegraphed to a stock broker in New York, giving orders to buy Malaka rubber shares, on margin.

“What’s ‘on margin?’ ” asked Annabel.

“It’s a quick way of doing it,” her husband explained.

“In about twenty-four hours I’ll either make five hundred dollars or lose five hundred.”

“Who advised you to do that?” Mrs. Wendle had an exact idea of the value of five hundred dollars.

“I didn’t ask anyone,” Peter explained airily. “Nobody knows for certain what’s going to happen on the market, and my guess is as good as that of the next guy.

Anyway, even if I lose, it’ll be a thrill, and I haven’t had a business thrill since the year dot.”

TUST twenty-four hours later Peter announced that he J had sold out of rubber, with a profit of five hundred perfectly good dollars.

’T’m so glad,” came from Annabel. “And I don’t mind you having a little fling if it really pleased you. You know that, don’t you? But I do want you to promise you’ll never do such a thing again.”

"On the contrary,” Peter announced, “I’m only begin-

Peter that his venture into oil had deprived him of seven hundred and fifty dollars.

“Can’t help that,” said Peter to Annabel. “It’s got to rain some days. Fat man must have made a mistake. What I’ve lost on the swings I’ll catch up on the rounda

“Peter, I know you’ll only get mad with me, but you remember the little woman I was talking to in the lounge this morning. I wish you’d listened. It really would have interested you. Her husband is looking for capital for a company with a most promising—”

Annabel hesitated: Peter hitched himself forward,

keyed up, alert.

“Go ahead,” he urged. “If it’s a money maker I’m willing to invest. What’s the company to do?”

“It really sounds good, Peter. I wish you’d look into the matter.”

“Yes, but what’s the company for? To sell chewing gum in Central Africa, or what?”

“No, dear, it’s a new kind of separator that will save money in every factory where they make chee—”

There was a look in Peter’s eye which spelled warning.

Annabel’s lips closed on the forbidden word as the lid of a mouse-trap snaps when the rodent takes the fatal nibble.

“I may be sitting up a bit late to-night,” he said as though to change the subject. “Going to play a little game called poker with Mr. Wessex, the fat man, and some of his friends.”

“Poker, Peter? But it’s a dreadfully gambling game, isn’t it?”

“It’s quite simple,” replied Peter. “And some of the guys who are going to play look simple too. If I can’t lift the price of a couple of new hats for you off them, I’ll admit my luck’s dead out.”

And Peter, almost a neophite at poker, through sheer ingenuousness or because his star was in the ascendant, retired to bed that night having withdrawn from his friends the price of two new hats for Annabel, two seats at the theatre and two hundred dollars.

AFTER a leisurely breakfast he rang up his broker and, on top of the ever-growing spirit of adventure, bought somewhat freely of those highly speculative mining shares which fill the hearts of brokers with joy and the minds of the unwary with discontent. Then with a light heart he took Annabel out and insisted on her indulging in the wildest orgy of shopping that she had known since they two were linked together. They returned to the hotel in a cab laden to the brim with

packages and cardboard boxes; and when, in her room, Annabel surveyed the collection en masse, she hung perilously between laughter and tears.

“But, Pete, this is crazy nonsense,” she protested. “We can’t afford it. Staid business folk with a moderate income like ours, shouldn’t throw money about in this fashion.”

Peter sat on the arm of a chair and grinned at her.

“Annabel Wendle,” he replied, “you’re all hot and flushed and excited ánd dog tired with that shopping. I want to ask you one honest question. Were you or weren’t you ever much happier in all your life than^you are at the present moment?”

She came over and put her arms about his neck.

“Pete, dear, I’m so happy I think if I were much happier I should burst with i . But you’re as mad as a March hare.”

“I don’t mind you thinking a little thing like that so long as you go on looking ten years younger. Now, be truthful. Isn’t it rather nice to be a pirate’s wife?”

“But you aren’t a pirate, dear. You’re a perfectly respectable—”

“Hush! Not that awful word, please. I’m a prince of finance on the top of good fortune, giving the best little woman in the world her first real taste of fun. Why, if I went back stranded now, it’d be worth it. It’s a decade since I saw such sheer devilment in your eyes as there was when you hesitated between that pale blue silk dress and the reddish one, and then bought them both. Now you’d better start re-shuffling all your things ready for Monte Carlo. We’re catching the boat that sails a week from to-day. Between now and then I've got several little business matters to attend to. For instance there’s a man coming to see me this afternoon about a new sort of motor tyre that may revolutionize the entire industry, and tc-morrow we’re booked for a day at the races. Besides that I’ve several little things simmering. Those gold mine shares I bought this morning need close watching. I see some of ’em have sagged a bit—”

“Sagged?” Annabel’s alarm was very real. “Does that mean you’re losing money, Peter?”

“Only on paper, my dear. They’ll bound up again like a rubber ball. Broker says they can’t help it. They’ve been going up and down like this for months. Presently I’ll be clearing enough profit on the things to—”

“How much have you lost already on those mining shares, Peter?” It was a direct hit as from a ten inch gun.

“Don’t worry about details, Annabel. We’re sure to have little ‘downs’ as well as ‘ups.’ In the long run I’ll be wallowing in money. Everything I touch seems to come out right. Can’t help doing it.”

“DETER, I know you’re enjoying yourself more than 1 you ever have done all your life. Still, it doesn’t all turn out right, now does it? First there was that oil thing that went wrong. You lost seven hundred and fifty there. Think of it, Peter, lost seven hundred and fifty dollars in one day!”

“Wasn’t that the day I won something on a horse? Yes, it was.”

“I’m not sure. But you see, dear, even so, it isn’t all profit. Now be honest, Pete, without joking. How do you stand since the moment you first started this craze?"

Peter laughed and fishèd out a pencil.

“Including everything,” he said presently, “including our expenses and all our shopping I’m precisely five dollars and sixty cents to the good. I haven’t made a pile yet, that’s true, but give me time. Rome wasn’t built in a minute. Meanwhile we’ve both had a glorious time haven’t we?”

“It’s been lovely so far,” agreed Annabel. “But 1 do wish I could persuade you to speculate only in things you understand, dear.”

“Lord, Annabel, as a pirate's wife you’re a scream! But I wouldn’t have you any different for all that. I'd still only have been earning about twenty or thirty dollars a week if it hadn’t been for you. What hats are you going to wear at Monte? Don’t look at me like that. You’re just going to adore it. At heart you’re as big a gambler as I am. More so, otherwise you wouldn’t have married me! The trouble is, Annabel, that in all the years we’ve been together we’ve had to scrape odd pennies together and never looked beyond our noses and never dared gamble. I don’t mean onlyin money. Nearlyeverythingismore or less of a gamble, and we’ve always stuck to the dull safe things. \Ve need something to shake us upmentally.andl’ll bet a banana that when we get to Monte Carlo you’ll be as fascinated by the rouge and noir as anyone there.”

“I shall watch you play, Pete. And if those horrid croupiers rake your money away I shall want to scratch

BEFORE the boat train bore Mr. and Mrs. Wendle southward to their fate, the sagging gold mines took a new lease of life, and Peter, jubilant beyond words, regarded the world as a wonderful place while he watched the figures slowly mount. The day before sailing he sold

out with three thousand to the good, and before the shops closed, Peter had secured for Annabel her life’s ambition —a five hundred dollar fur coat.

“Pete dear, you’re an angel to me,” she said. “You always have been. Now, won’t you let me give you just one word of advice? You’ve been talking for years about the time when you’d be able to buy yourself a real motor car. Now, if you were sensible, you’d cancel this wild Monte Carlo trip and get a sensible automobile with what you've made out of the gold mines, and we’ll spend the rest of our holiday quietly at Atlantic City. So far you’ve only bought yourself a silk tie, and you know how you longed for a decent car.”

Peter smiled infectiously.

“Can you,” he asked, “imagine a pirate spending a holiday quietly at Atlantic City in an automobile? It’d be funny! Why, we financiers count our time as worth ten dollars a minute. You’re laughing, but wait till I’ve finished.”

In due course Peter quivered with excitement as he walked into the great., still gambling room at Monte Carlo’s casino. It was an emotion different from anything he had ever known. At a dozen roulette tables well-dressed men and women were staking money with a callous indifference that appalled him. Some won, some lost; and all raked in their winnings or suffered losses with mask-like faces. But it was the adventure of it that made Peter tingle. Here, in five minutes, he could place on the board and lose every cent he had saved during the last eighteen years. Or, just according to the whim of that dancing little white ball in the bowl, he might in five minutes make as much as he had earned in all his life. Behind guarded barriers, men were waiting to pay out unbelievable sums if only one’s luck held out for five minutes. Five little minutes out of a whole lifetime! The romance of the thing gripped Peter Wendle.

“Something tells me I’m going to win,” he said in awed tones to Annabel. “You're my lucky star, and your age is thirty-six. I’m going to have fifty francs on thirty

The wheel spun. The ball gyrated.

“Thirty six!” announced the croupier, and with a queer shiver down his back Peter saw a pile of money being pushed across the table toward him. In sixty seconds he had won nearly two hundred dollars. There was something uncanny about it.

“That’s quick enough,” he said to a man sitting next to him. “Wish I’d put more on my lucky number!”

“No reason why the same number shouldn’t come up again. Roulette’s a queer game,” was the reply.

“All right, then. Here goes!” And he placed the equivalent of fifteen dollars in the centre of the little square marked thirty-six.

IT WAS as though an electric shock passed through Peter’s frame when the ball again fell into the thirtysixth slot. The room was hot, and Peter mopped his brow with a handerkchief.

“That’s another two hundred or so to me,” he whispered to Annabel. “They’re giving money away here. Just sit tight and watch me make things buzz. I’m out. to catch thirty-six again, but I’ll wait a while till she s had time to come around once more.”

Patiently, with his blood a-boil, Peter waited while three dozen spins were made, and, as he had calculated, thirty-six came up no more during that time.

“Now!” he said, and placed the equivalent of five dollars on his lucky number.

“Sixteen!” announced the croupier.

“Never mind,” Peter murmured. “I’ll just keep on doubling my stakes. Then when 1 do win I’ll make the sort of haul I’m after.”

His next stake of ten dollars was swept away.

“There’s less risk on the colors,” he said, placing Continued on page 1,6

Cheese

Continued from page 27

twenty dollars on red. And that went, followed in quick succession by forty, eighty, a hundred and sixty, and three hundred and twenty.

"Umph,” Peter grunted. “That s queer. It’s bound to come along in a few minutes. But I’ll stick to bets of two hundred and fifty. That’s enough.”

Nine times Peter placed two hundred and fifty on various parts of the board, and nine times the emotionless croupier raked it in.

Annabel whispered something into her husband’s ear.

No, no!” he answered quickly. It needs a bit of pluck, that’s all. I can’t stop chasing the thing now after losing all that!”

Nine times more Peter staked and lost. His last stake was reduced to twenty dollars, because that was all he had left in his pocket. Something seemed to whisper “zero” in his heart. At the ultimate second he shifted his stake from thirtysix to “zero” and then the ball clicked its way into a hole.

“Thirty-six?” announced the croupier monotonously.

Peter sat dazed. Every penny he had made recently had gone into the insatiable maw of the casino. Again the ball spun.

“Thirty-six!” again announced the croupier irritatingly.

“The damned thing’s bewitched!^ said Peter aloud, rising from his chair. “Annabel, my luck’s out to-day. In fact I believe'I’ve had enough Monte Carlo to last till the crack of doom. I don’t understand flip Mamed nprfnrmance at all.”

NOW, if Annabel had been some women she would have leaped at^ the occasion to remark “I told you so;” instead she took her husband’s arm and passed out of the salle des jeux with a jest on her lips.

“Extraordinary! Extraordinary!” Peter muttered. “Now would you have believed such a thing possible?”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Annabel. Peter surveyed his wife in silence for a moment, then gripped her arm tightly.

“Little woman,” he said in a voice that was itself a caress, “there isn’t one girl in a billion who’d have taken it like that. You’re game to the back teeth!”

“Why, you’ve had your fling, Pete, that’s all,” she replied. “You just had to get it out of your system, or I believe you’d have been miserable.”

Peter walked on, silent for a while.

“And yet,” he said at length, “somehow I feel it was right to do that. I don’t regret losing—not really regret it, I mean. Come to think of it, we’re no worse off than when we went to New York, and if my luck hadn’t slipped a cog somehow in the casino, I believe that’s where I might have made a wad of money. Only I struck a bad patch.”

“It isn’t all out of your system yet?” Annabel was just the least surprised.

“You mean, have I ceased, 'to be a pirate? No! I’ve had one in the solar plexus, but that wasn’t a knock out. You wait till I get another idea. They come in waves. It may come in another five minutes and it may not come for days, but it’ll arrive all right. I don’t think it’ll be roulette again, though. That’s just uncanny.”

Twice more during the following week Peter went into the casino and watched the play, but on neither occasion did he stake money. And it was in a curiously disconsolate mood that he returned to New York. Perhaps the figurative punch in the solar plexus had taken out of him some of the wild spirit of adventure; perhaps it was that he was only awaiting inspiration. The race-track had now ceased to interest him in the same way. The stock exchange drew him less. And yet he was vaguely dissatisfied. He took Annabel to theatres and was slightly

ONE afternoon while wandering mor or less aimlessly, Peter and his wif dropped into a place where a sedate loo! ing man with a breezy personality wa selling something by auction.

“Come on, let’s edge up,” Peter urge* his wife. “I love auctions but what’r they selling?”

“I must have some advance on hundred dollars,” said the auctioneer “I’ll admit there isn’t much to buy it this case, but three hundred dollars i: nothing at all. Three hundred and fifty Thank you, sir.”

“What’s he selling?” Peter asked of £ man standing by his side.

“Wrecks,” replied the man with the air of one addressing a child.

‘ “Wrecks! But good God, who wants to buy wrecks?” demanded Peter.

“Why, it’s a regular thing,” explained the man. “When a ship runs ashore and she looks like going to pieces, wouldn’t you sell her as she stood if you had the chance?”

“I s’pose so,” said Peter unmoved, listening to the rising bids. Someone had just offered four hundred and fifty. “Where’s this wreck?”

“Somewhere near Cape Sable,” said the man. “She’s a little steamer from Holland. The official report is that she’ll be a total wreck. There’s a big gale blowing off there, and she’s probably pounded into matchwood by now, but that’s all in the game. A busted steamer and cargo for what she’ll fetch! It’s a gamble.”

Out of all that, two words only were really impinged upon Peter’s brain. “Cape Sable” and “gamble.” With the peculiar avidity for omens of the gambler on the warpath, Peter tensed at the mention of Cape Sable. His brother Stephen lived at Barrington, only a stone’s throw from the cape.

Peter opened his lips to speak, closed them, and at sight of the auctioneer’s upraised hammer opened them again. “Five hundred,” he said in an odd

“Five hundred,” repeated the man on the rostrum as he brought down the hammer, glad to finish with that lot. “The steamer Juliana,.your property, sir. Mr. —er—?”

“Wendle, Peter Wendle,” explained the buyer, wondering why on earth he had bought a wrecked steamer that had probably been smashed to tinder in a howling gale. “Annabel,” he went on, “let’s get to a cable office. I want to wire Stephen. Just as well to know how I stand in the matter.”

“All right, Pete,” his wife answered good-naturedly. “But do tell me you’ve finished with all this crazy nonsense. Promise me you won’t do anything else silly. Let’s buy your car now and spend the rest of our vacation at Atlantic City. I’d love it.”

Peter nodded moodily.

“I think you’re right, little woman. We’ll do just that.”

“And no more speculation?” she begged beaming.

“All right.”

“Well, let’s telegraph to Stephen and go straight on to Atlantic City.”

The message read:

Have bought for five hundred dollars the steamer Juliana ashore near Cape Sable, as a desperate speculation. Please let me know if she is a total loss. Wire immediately.

The telegraphed reply came first thing next morning while Peter was yawning in bed:

Steamer Juliana went on rocks here in violent gale and would have been smashed up but wind changed suddenly to-day and she seems safe now. Will probably tow off without serious damage. Her cargo is apparently undamaged. It consists of about twenty five-thousand dollars’ worth of Dutch cheese.