Peter and Pokey Invade Winnipeg
NORMA PHILLIPS MUIR
"RUTH,” cried Peter, bursting into the house as though there was dynamite behind him, “do you know where you are going?”
“Eventually, yes,” I said, “at least I’ve a pretty good general idea, but why spoil my evening by bringing it up now?”
“I don’t mean eternity,” refuted Peter, “I mean—” “Unless there is a sudden change for the better, I presume it will be to take you a mama doll and pass it in behind the bars,” I presumed. “What’s the matter with you? Let me smell your breath.”
“Huh,” said Peter, “just for that I won’t tell you until after dinner.”
hich Pokey gets well paid for embarrassing Peter : it is the first of a new series of yarns
dealing with Mrs. Muir's inimitable creations.
and will look after the kids, with Pansy’s help, and if all goes well you and I will go on as far as Banff anyway, and possibly have a day at Lake Louise. How’s that?”
“Heavenly,” I gurgled. “Where’s the money coming from for my expenses?”
“Leave that to your Uncle Dudley,” said Peter mysteriously, “and now— let’s eat.”
“If you recall the fact that you forgot to leave me any money this morning, and also that I told you last night I had seventeen cents in my purse, you will understand what I mean when I say that I won’t be kept in suspense long,” I announced.
“Gosh,” snorted Peter, “and me with a vbid in my middle the size of a feather bed. ’
“Stew is filling,” I cheered him, “and so is apple sauce.” “Why not serve ’em together and save washing dishes?” he snarled. "I crave food —quantity, quality and variety.” “Pansy,” I called, and as she appeared, “open a tin of tomato soup, a tin of corned beef, a tin of pine-apple, and put crackers, cheese, pickles, jelly, and the top layer of the wedding cake on the tableand be quick.”
Pansy vanished, her mouth opening and shutting spasmodically.
“Good for you,” shouted Peter, restored to good humor, and he gave me a clap on the back which sent me reeling into the piano.
“What’s the matter with you?” I asked angrily, as he steadied me and then began to do a tango around the room.
“We’re going West, we’re going West—” he chanted. “Pokey Ruth Ronald, this time to-morrow night we’ll be waiting for a taxi to take us to the station en route to Winnipeg, Banff and Lake Louise.”
“One of us is going a much, much shorter journey,” I predicted. “Pete -, put me down and act like a lady “I’ve got, to go to Winnipeg on business,” he said soberly, seeing that he had me all excited, “and I’m going to fcftke you along. Aunt Joan will be here in the morning
E HAD a wild evening, of course, deciding what we should and should not take with us, doing the preliminary packing, and planning. Then I had to make out the menus and orders for Pansy for the time we should be away, and mend and put the necessary buttons on the John’s and Joan’s undies.
“I wish you could have let me know a little farther ahead,” I said. “This is one awful rush, and I’m so excited I’m afraid I’ll do something I shouldn’t do.”
“Couldn’t help it,” said Peter, with his mouth full of rubber bands. “The boss only decided to send me when he found that this Barton deal was coming off right away and he has to appear for Barton. Gee, Pokey, if I can pull this off it ought to be good fer a raise.”
“What is the business,” I invited.
“I’ll tell you on our way out,” said Peter. “I can’t think straight to-night, and I’m so dog tired, too. Let’s call it a day, Ruth; we can finish this to-morrow.”
Morning brought Aunt Joan, rosy and beloved, and delighted at the opportunity of having the twins to herself for a time.
“They’re safer with you than they are with me,” I said.
“A-a-amen,” sang Peter.
“Peter,” said Aunt Joan sternly, “that is a very nasty attitude for you to take toward your wife.”
“Hurray,” I shouted, “wallop him again, Aunt Joan.”
“Ruthie,”she protested, while Peter laughed and picked me up under his arm, dangling me like I do Joan.
“For two cents I’d spank you,” he threatened, as he put me down, and ruffled my hair.
“Children, you’ve got a lot to do yet,” remarked Aunt Joan, and Peter and I flew to our packing again.
I felt rather badly when the time came to go, for after all children do need a mother’s attention once in a while, and the twins are so cunning, now that they’ve got past the sniffly stage.
“Joan go by-by?” she asked, when I went in with my hat on to kiss them good-bye.
“Oh, Peter, let me take just one of them,” I begged.
“What do you think this is, a Sunday School Excursion?” asked Peter. “They’ll be all right; besides, think of the nice things we can bring to them.” And he took Joan away from me and put her in the cot, but I noticed he hugged her pretty tightly himself, and John, too.
“I can’t leave them,” I sobbed.
“Now, Ruthie, a wise woman never lets her husband suffer neglect on account of her children,” said Aunt Joan. “I’ll write every day and wire you if they’re needing you.”
“Don’t wire, telephone,” I said, and with a final squeeze, I left them.
“That’s right, rival the hose brigade,” said Peter. “We never go anywhere or come home without you turning on the water works.” But he wiped my eyes with his hankie and put his arm around me just the same.
“We’re going to have dnother honeymoon,” he whispered.
I mopped up after a while and then a sudden thought struck me.
“You know, Peter, I’ve never been on a train at night before,” I cried. “I’m so excited about it. Have we a drawing room?”
“We have not,” said Peter. “What do you think we are—next of kin to Mellon, Ford and Rockefeller? We’ve got a section and that’s twice as much as some married couples have—lots share a lower.”
“Where will I sleep?” I said.
“In the lower, of course, dear,” he replied.
“But, Peter, you’re so heavy, if you ever fell on me,” I protested. “I think it would be better if I went upstairs.”
“There isn’t any upstairs; you shinny up a little ladder,” said Peter.
“I’d love that,” I said brightly.
“Well—I’d look fine letting you take the upper, wouldn’t I?” asked Peter. “Nothing doing.. you’d fall out or fall down or something sure as fate.”
“Section seven,” he said to the nice black porter when we boarded the train.
“Seven’s my lucky number,” I whispered, pressing against him.
“I hope so, we want all the luck we can get on this trip,” smiled Peter, and then we halted at number seven and I pulled the curtains aside and looked in.
“What’s that little hammock for, Peter?” I asked.
“To put your clothes in,” he said.
“But they’ll get so creased,” I protested, “I’d rather hang them up somewhere.”
“Well, here are two hangers,” pointed out Peter. “You’d better sit down, dear, you’re blocking the aisle.”
“Where do I go to undress?” I whispered.
“You can do it here or in the ladies’ dressing room,” he said smiling at my ignorance.
“With a lot of other strange women,” I said. “Oh, Peter, I couldn’t do that.”
“Well, do it here then,” he said, and leaning down closer he whispered, “it’s your innate daintiness, dear, that I love so.”
I HAD stooped to undo my brogue, but at Peter’s tender whisper I sat up suddenly and caught my head on the top of the mahogany berth.
“Damn,” I said, “what the—”
“Ruth,” he said sternly, “restrain yourself.”
“Heaven’s, I feel as though my neck had been jammed into my stomach and my ears were tickling my shoulders,” I gasped. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Why didn’t you look?” he asked. “Well—I’m going up.”
Peter’s long legs swung upward, and he disappeared, but a moment later I was pleased to hear his cranium crack against the roof, and to hear a muffled curse.
“Peter,” I called softly, “restrain yourself; why didn’t you look?”
There was no answer, nothing but a snort, much thrashing about, and finally silence.
I couldn’t go to sleep. Possibly it was the novelty of it all, but I really think it was mostly because I was so full of thought. Twice I rolled against the button and the porter came to see what was wanted, but between the first and second times I discovered that he hadn’t opened the window, so when he was there I let him do it.
“Ruth,” said Peter’s voice stealthily from above me, “what the Sam Hill’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing, only I rolled against the bell a couple of times,” I said jauntily. “Peter, I’m awfully thirsty.”
“Forget it and go to sleep,” he said unsympathetically. ‘"What do you think this is, a cafeteria and soda fountain?”
“But every time I swallow my throat cracks,” I protested.
“Then stop swallowing,” said Peter. “Good night,” and I heard him turn over away from the whisper-crack.
“That’s cherishing me, all right,” I muttered, and I tapped gently on the upper part of the berth, and was rewarded by hearing Peter flounder over to the edge again. “Well?” he hissed.
“I gotta get a drink,” I said. “Which end is the ladies’ dressing room?”
“To your right as you get out,” he said crossly.
“But suppose I get out the opposite to what you do?” I giggled, wide awake and fulla pep.
“My godfathers,” muttered Peter—and another flop told me that he had given me up.
I TANGLED myself in my kimona, lifted up the flap and rolled out. Somehow that car made me think of a funeral, for the sombre green of the pleated curtains certainly resembled grotesquely the pleated plush which covers coffin stands. There was something vaguely reminiscent of a circus tent, too, in their swaying which bellied them out here—where a fat man had rolled near the edge, or drew tightly there, as though an old maid had put in a safety-pin to make herself more secure.
“I’ll bet it’d look more like a circus if I could see inside,” I giggled, as I made my way to the dressing room. “Bet I’d find several zebra effects in pajamas, and more than a couple of patent curler freaks.”
I got my drink all right, out of one of those fool paper cups with an elliptical slash supposed to denote the place you tip it against your mouth. Only half the ice-water went down my throat, however, the other half trickling down the surface of my front where Hoyle says ice-water is never supposed to go. I didn’t holler but I sure did do an animated shimmy around that dressing room, and by the time I was dry and ready to go back to my berth I was too much awake to want to go to sleep.
However, I started back, but somehow the ground didn’t seem familiar to me at first, and, then I remembered that the berth was number seven and I knew I was all right.
I lifted the flap up and crawled in, but the moment I lay down I went perfectly stiff. I was not alone in my berth.
“Peter,” I hollered at the top of my lungs, as I got a firm hold on the intruder. “Peter, there’s someone in my berth.”
Suddenly another scream rent the air, and it was all I could do to hang on to the person who had usurped my place, it wiggled and kicked and twisted so.
“Peter, help,” I called. And then I heard bare feet hitting the floor and the curtains of the berth were dragged back and the face of the porter with nothing much visible but the whites of his eyes, appeared.
“It’s a stowaway,” I sobbed. “I just went for a drink and while I was gone it took my berth.” I was in the aisle by this time, and so was the other one—and if I do say it myself I certainly must have shone by contrast.
At first I thought it must be a neuter, for it wore dark grey pajamas striped with salmon pink, a sort of sea-sick green shade, and yet its long thin face was surmounted by a halo of wire curlers which formed fours every other minute when the tortured head wobbled in a vain effort to shake its tongue back into place so it could explain.
Then I noticed that it wore a cameo brooch pinned to its pajama pocket, so I decided it was a woman after all.
“What is the meaning of this?” I demanded sternly.
“Th-ththash what I’d like to know,” said the other, just as sternly.
“Thish instrushin ish— a-a-a” and at this point I fell foul of the fact that her teeth must be in a tumbler somewhere; they certainly were not where
nature intended them to be. At almost the same moment I became conscious that amid the heterogeneous and bewildered throng Peter was conspicuous by his absence.
“Peter,” I wailed. “Porter, please wake my husband up,” and I pointed an imploring finger at upper seven.J The porter, whose eyes were rolling around like seven come eleven, raised a palsied hand and swept back the curtains. Upper seven was not made up.
“Peter,” I yelled. “My heaven, where has he gone?” and I sank down on lower seven.
There was a sudden parting of the curious crowd and Peter’s form hove in sight.
“Oh, Peter,” I cried, throwing myself into his arms, “I thought I had lest you.”
LIE BENT low over me, as he appeared to pat my ATshoulder re-assuringly, but what he said was, “I wish to gosh I’d left you home.”
“Sorry, porter, for this disturbance,” he said coolly. “My wife went for a drink and she must have turned the wrong way and come into this car by mistake. Your pardon, madam,” and he bowed to the vindicated Venus, and turned, with me, to go.
“Don’t you ever speak to me again,” admonished Venus venomously.
“I won’t, I’m ash mush ashamed of it ash you are,” I mimicked her, whereat the crowd snickered and parted to let Peter and I through. They formed an aisle on either side of us, and some wag whistled the wedding march, but Peter wouldn’t crack a smile.
“Hello, flint-face,” I said, bowing at him.
“Don’t be funny,” warned Peter, shoving me into the right number seven and climbing in after me. “Now you settle down and go to sleep, and next time you get out of bed it’ll be over me.”
“Last time it was under you,” I giggled. “Peter can’t you see the funny side of it?”
“No,” snapped Peter, “I can’t. I’d just as soon travel with a menagerie as with you.”
“But, Peter, I was so thirsty and then I spilled the cold water all down my tummy and I was so frightened, and— and I think I’m going to cry.”
“If you do,” said Peter firmly, “you’ll get spanked as soon as we get to Winnipeg or my name’s not Peter Ronald. YOU—GO—TO—SLEEP.”
Well, after that I did, and when I wakened it was broad day light and I turned to find Peter lying wide-eyed beside me.
“Good-morning, papa,” I smiled, “when did you come down?”
“Several hours ago,” he said grimly, “after I had rescued you from the next car.”
Then I remembered.
“Gee, Pop, wasn’t it funny,” I giggled. “I nev—”
“It was not,” he interrupted, “it was perfectly awful. Why they must have heard your yells back home.”
“Wasn’t the old one a rag-bag?” I said, ignoring hi» remark.
“At least she was dignified,” stated Peter.
“In that outfit she was merely moral,” I said—“nothing else.”
We didn’t refer to the little contretemps again, but in the diner people looked up and smiled brightly when we entered. I smiled back at them, but Peter strode to the table and was about to sit down when the majestic presence at the other side, said:
“Waiter, I protest.”
“That makes it unanimous,” I said quickly, and the waiter looking puzzled, led us to another table.
“I see you found them,” I said brightly, as we passed, and tapped my mouth suggestively, while she folded her upper lip in a tight tuck over her lower and took a vicioua swat at her egg, decapitating it in one stroke.
“Ruth,” said Peter, “I want you to behave yourself from now on and ignore that poor woman.”
“I guess I can afford to,” I said magnanimously. “She hasn’t a husband or real teeth or twins, poor soul.”
The day passed quickly. Peter and I were invited to sit in with a nice couple from the States who wished to play bridge, and when we weren’t playing we were either eating, or out on the platform of the observation car.
YYNCE when we went out my striped bed-fellow waa ^ the only other occupant of the platform. She had a pair of pince-nez up to her eyes, and was gazing raptly at the sunset.
“Ain’t nature grand?” I asked Peter, and at that she swung her glance toward me and regarded me with a haughty stare.
“Oh, Peter, look,” I cried in childish glee, pointing to the pince-nez, “storm windows on a stick.”
He gave me a horrified look, but the old dame beat us in and Peter played Plato in the pulpit until he ran down and tfien I suggested gently that by the time we were ready, dinner would be served.
Peter insists that I spoiled the trip for him, and yet, there is a certain relish in his recounting of our adventures. All the same, if I hadn’t done what I did do, Peter wouldn’t have pulled off what he came West for—and he has me to thank for that.
You see I took my little traveling case into the ladies’ dressing room with me, and when I found the room to be absolutely empty, I decided tocurl my hair, for I knew that by the time I reached Winnipeg it would be as straight as a bull-dog’s tail. I washed first, and put some powder and a trace of rouge on, and then, removing my net, I loosened the hair just enough that I might wave it without taking it down. I took the one bulb out of the twin socket, and had just nicely screwed the plug of my curlers in when—the light went out. For a moment I thought I had loosened both lamps and then I knew what had happened. My curlers were too strong and I had blown the fuse. Unscrewing them quickly and shoving them into my bag I hastily put the lamp back, grabbed my net, and had just reached our section when the train man came h u r r y i ng through with an electric torch playing before him. Peter was nowhere to be seen. While I sat there in the darkness, a couple of men from another car who were on their way into the diner, came along.
“No use going in now, Jim,” said the one, “let's sit down in here until they locate the trouble.” “You’re right,” said another voice. “Anyone in this seat?”
NO ONE answered—in fact when the trainmen had hurried by I was the only one in the car— the rest being in the observation car or the diner. The two men>took the seat behind me.
“We get in about three to-morrow, don’t we?” asked the one.
and we ought to be able to see the old man before he
leaves the office—I don’t Continued. page (¡Q
Peter and Pokey Invade Winnipeg
Continued from page 17
want to waste any more time than we have to, for it’s hard to tell what Newton Rawdon and Ronald are up to.”
“I wish we knew who they were sending out,” went on the first voice—“the devil of it is that I don’t know either Rawdon or Ronald by sight, and neither do you.” Naturally my ears were working overtime after I caught the name of Peter’s firm, and I sat tight hoping they’d talk some more.
“Lucky I was the one to find the other will—that let’s the girls out. If only the old man hasn’t heard of it, we’re safe and I don’t think—the way it was drawn up— that any lawyer had anything to do with it.”
“Are you sure it is better to keep it out of sight?” asked the weaker of the two voices nervously. “Wouldn’t it be safer for us to produce it and then contest on some grounds or other?”
“Not a chance,” was the answer. “The two witnesses are both dead, the will was evidently made hurriedly—and the chances are that none but the three who saw it know anything about it—and even the old dame can only swear that her husband told her he had looked after it. If everything goes off all right I’ll get it out of the safety box with my own papers soon after we go back, destroy it quietly, and there’s an end to it—and our wives with the nice little sum of fifty thousand apiece to ease our declining years. I’d have destroyed it when I found it but I wasn’t positive then that both witnesses were dead.”
“All-Canadian Trust isn’t it?” asked the other, after sighing deeply.
“Yeh—” said the other. “You’re getting fussy, old chap, better just forget about it until it comes up—let me do the dirty work.”
THERE was a long silence, in which I was afraid the pounding of my heart could be heard, and when the silence was broken it was about the relative merits of the Royal Alexandra and the Fort Garry hotels that they spoke, and I also learned that they were going to the Royal Alex.
“Guess that’s a nice little bit of sleuthing, Pokey,” I commended myself, and slipping off my shoes I crept out of the seat, and into one further down the aisle.
I was only just in time, too, for I had no more than donned my shoes before the lights came on again, and I had a good chance to see the two men. There was no doubt but what I would know them again, for the one was small and dark, with a nervously twitching mouth, and the other was tali and ruddy—one of these hail-fellows-well-met whom I had no difficulty in placing as the positive member of the duet.
They rose and passed through the car on their way to the diner, and the dark one started when he saw me, and glanced back apprehensively as though to see if I could possibly have overheard them.
“Nonsense,” cried the other jovially, sensing his fear, “not a chance.”
Just at that moment Peter came in from the smoker.
“Ready dear?” he asked, and then he stared at my hair.
“What’s the matter with it?” I asked. “Looks funny,” said Peter. “I don’t like it that way.”
“I had to put my not on in the dark,” I said defensively. “I’ll fix it.”
“Ruth —did you bring your electric curlers?” cried Peter.
“Why—yes, does my hair need curling?” I asked, hut Peter took me by the shoulders and looked me in the fat of the
“Don’t maul me,” I said crossly, but he was inexorable.
“Ruth—you attached those curlers and blew the fuses—didn’t you?” he accused me.
“Yes, I did, and now, suppose little Willie Westinghouse runs and tells teacher,” I suggested. “How was I to know what’d happen?”
Peter groaned and let go of me. “Next time I want to have a pleasant trip I'll come alone or—”
“Take your mother with you?” I suggested. “Come on, Peter, let’s eat.”
Just as we entered the diner I had a sudden idea, and yanked Peter backwards on to the platform.
“Hey—what the—” he began. “Listen,” I said mysteriously. “Does any one on this train know your name?” “No, but they all know me by sight as your—”
“Never mind that, whatever you do, don’t tell anyone—AN Y ONE^who you are or what firm you’re with,” I commanded—“just pretend you’re a gentleman.”
And with this warning I preceded Peter to the table and ordered roast goose.
“Suitable,” said Peter Ibriefly, and then to my horror he said: “Promised to tbll you about this business, didn’t I?” “Not now, John,” I smiled, as I suddenly saw that the two men were across from us, “wait until we are there, John dear, and let the trip be sufficient.” Peter’s eyes opened widely, and his mouth too.
“Careful, dear, soot is hard on the tonsils,” I reminded him and Peter leaned forward to hiss:
“If you don’t begin to show signs of sanity pretty soon you’ll go home in a kiddy coop with a slat top.”
We paid strict attention to our food, although I had one ear pointed toward the table opposite us, and noted that they were doing themselves proud.
One thing happened that I had to giggle at, and even though he was embarrassed Peter joined me. The little nervous man waited and waited after their dessert plates had been removed, and when the other made a move to rise, he restrained him.
“Aren’t you through?” said the big one. “We haven’t had our finger bowls yet,” said the other primly, and added, as he saw that I was listening, “I’m used to them at home, so why should I do without them here?”
“Gee,” I said to Peter in a low tone, “if that guy has finger bowls at home I’ll bet a cookie he gets them filled with stewed prunes.”
Peter was just swallowing his tea and choked on it. He grew very red in the face, and I guess the others heard me, for they didn’t wait for the finger bowls.
“Pokey,” he said, “you’re absolutely hopeless. There is only one thing I can say for you at this moment—and that is that my life is singularly free from monotony.”
I DIDN’T pay much attention to him, I was beckoning the waiter and when he came, I ordered another pot of coffee, roquefort cheese and crackers, and settled down to business.
“Now,” I said, leaning forward and scanning with satisfaction the_ nearly empty car, “now tell me about this case.’ “Put I thought you said -” “Diplomacy, Peter,” I interrupted. “Shoot, and go softly.”
“I don’t get you, but here it is,” he said. “You see we were called in to act for Mrs. Mcars in the case of contesting her husband’s will. She was a second
wife, and he had two daughters by his first marriage, and these, early in his second marriage, he made the sole beneficiaries under his will. Soon after his marriage Mrs. Mears lost all her independent means and she then insisted that he make another will naming her as the beneficiary. According to her story, he finally told her than he had made a second will in which she was to receive the whole of his estate—his daughters’ husbands both now being well to do. This happened several years ago, and last month he died. There had been a reconciliation between the stepmother and daughters and of course they were at the house with her. When the papers were gone through—there was no will found except the one by which the daughters benefit and in which the sons-in-law are named as executors. Mrs. Mears insists that there was another will and, as the bulk of the estate is in corporation bonds and real estate in Winnipeg where Mr. Mears formerly lived, the will has to be probated there.”
“Who went through the papers?” I asked.
“Mrs. Mears says she ran through them until she found one marked ‘Last Will and Testament,’ and withholding that turned the others over to the sons-inlaw without having read the will.”
“And when it was opened—it was the old one,” I said. “H’m, then if there was another one among the papers the sonsin-law could have nabbed it?”
“Yes, but that is a mighty serious supposition, Ruth. I hope to learn something from this old friend of Mears in Winnipeg who was co-executor with the sons-inlaw of the first will. He may have been told of the making of the second one. He seems to be our only chance. Failing evidence from him, I shall put a caveat on the will produced so it cannot be probated.”
FORGETFUL of the waiters who were still hanging around, I rose, and swelling out my chest, I said: “Behold the saviour of your case.”
“Huh,” grinned Peter. “Sit down and finish that cheese.”
“Honestly, Peter, all joking aside, you’ve had a wonderful streak of luck—and all because I blew out the fuses,” I told him, and then word for word I repeated what the men had said.
“Peter, isn’t there any way you can get hold of that man’s papers and produce the will?” I asked, and Peter, his face aglow with excitement and his eyes steady and purposeful, smiled at me.
“Leave it to me,” he said. “Pokey—I take everything back—the moon is only green cheese—but if you want it-—I’ll go after it as soon as I have these birds under lock and key. Keep an eye on them, honey* and don’t breathe a word of this to a soul. Whee boy! I’ve got to send off a couple of wires from Schreiber.”
“Be careful they’re not around when you do it,” I warned him—“they are on the lookout for a member of your firm.” Peter escorted me back to our section with brassy pride, and rang the bell, asking the porter to send the news agent in. He bought me three new magazines and a big box of candy.
“I’ll be busy most of the evening doping out my case,” he whispered. “You understand, dear—its partly yours now. If there’s anything else you want—get it and hang the expense.”
“Peter—I won’t have to appear, will I?” I asked nervously.
“I hope not—I can’t say,”, he said uncertainly. “But it is in the cause of justice,” he added—“justice to the widowed.”
“Get that tremolo out of your voice,” I said. “Just let me at the dirty dogs and I’ll show ’em up. Finger bowls—huh— I’ll bet they lick off their fingers when they’re home.”
“Don’t get excited, dear,” remonstrated Peter, and with a final pat he left me and went to the writing desk, while I read some snappy stories and revelled in the chocolates.
“Schreiber next station, ten minutes,” called the trainman on his way through. “Ten minutes at Schreiber.”
“There’s my chance,” I thought, and sticking the curlers in the pocket of my burberry I went out to the platform. “Getting out, dear?” asked Peter.
“Just for a little air,” I said, and Peter helped me to the platform and then made for the telegraph office while I rushed for the waiting room.
“I can curl one.side in ten minutes,” I panted, “and the other side at Kenora in the morning. May look funny—but I can’t help it,” and in a second I had the curlers attached and my right hand locks loosened. I had three done and was just unrolling the fourth when I heard a long drawn out wail of
“Gg-g-reat gosh,” I chattered, “I’m gonna get left.”
“Wait,” I hollered, “wait,” and jerking the connecting plug out I shoved the comb in my hair, my hair pins in my mouth, and with four old-maid ringlets waving in the breeze, I tore out of the waiting room and down the platform just as the train began to move.
I didn’t dare wait for our coach, for the train was gathering speed, but with the help of the porter I hopped on the nearest step and went up the other two on my knees, my eyes full of hair, my mouth full of celluloid pins, and the curlers and cord trailing in the breeze. Nor was that the worst of it. I had to go through six coaches before I found ours, and then I was at the wrong end for the ladies dressing room and had to pass Peter.
“Ruth,” he cried, jumping up, “I thought you were in the observation car— what is the meaning of this?”
“It means I darn near got left,” I said between hair pins, glaring at him from under my dangling fringe—“fat lot you look after me.”
“But you said—”
I didn’t answer him—I just streaked for the dressing room, leaving the car convulsed with mirth, and Peter red-faced and angry picking up odd hair pins. He picked up the curlers too, by the business end, and dropped them mighty quick and talked to heaven a minute or two, but when I came back he was quieted down.
“You’re a pretty lop-sided looking affair,” he announced.
“I’ll do the other side at Kenora,” I said. “I’ve ten minutes there too.”
“I pass,” said Peter, “you’re one too many for me.”
Nothing else happened until we got to Winnipeg, with the exception of the fact that I forgot I still had the electric light bulb in my pocket and sat on it, but that was a minor detail.
At the Royal Alex, we didn’t register. Peter gave his card to the assistant manager and said he was there on a secret mission, and arranged to have any wires sent direct to the room and not be paged.
Everything went wrong with the case, though. The old man who had been coexecutor of the first will had evidently been approached by Sexton and Condor, the two sons-in-law, and for some reason refused to see Peter at all.
Peter who had wired from Schreiber to Mr. Newton to see if there was any way of getting a search warrant for the papers in the Dominion Trust vault, was wired that it couldn’t be done without the arrest of the men.
“Hell’s bells and merry music,” said Peter. “If I’m not having the most infernal luck, I’ll eat my shirt. Pokey, you’ll have to go in the box and swear to what you heard; there’s nothing else to it, and I’d hoped to keep you out of it. We’ll have to swear out a warrant for them.”
“I’ll have to telephone Newton,” he said thoughtfully. “He’ll have left the office but if I could get that call through right away—there’s nothing else we can do to-night—we might take in a show.”
“Atta boy,” I said. “I’ll get ready while you put your call through.”
I DON’T know what made me think of him, but after Peter went down to put his call through I suddenly remembered that my mother’s uncle—a dear old man who had thought the world of her, lived in Winnipeg, and I decided that we’d go and see him instead of taking in a show. I got his house without any difficulty, and he sure was surprised when I told him that Ruth Laureston was speaking—I knew he didn’t even know I was married, and he insisted that I come right up.
“I’ve got a husband along, may I bring him too?” I laughed—“and oh, IJncle.Ted, —I’ve got two babies—twins.”
“Good Lord,” he gasped — “Why Ruthie, how old are you?”
“Twenty-three,” I said proudly. “We’ll he up as soon as my husband comes in— a Portage car, you said?”
Peter came in a little later, but he looked tired and worried.
“Peter, dear,” I said timidly. “I hope you won’t be disappointed, but I just remembered that Mother’s uncle Ted
lives here, and I ’phoned him and he wants
us to come up there. He’s a dear old man and he thought so much of mother.”
“Why sure we’ll go,” assentedPeter. “Where is it, Ruth?”
I told him and we started out.
“His name is Edward Masters,” I began, and Peter who was just stepping from the taxi up to the sidewalk forgot to take his leg out of the air, but stood there with it elevated stupidly.
“Come on down,” I suggested; “they’ve taken the other step away.”
“Edward Masters,” roared Peter— "that’s the name of the old man I’ve been breaking my neck to see ever since we hit this burg. Well, I’ll be—”
“I’ve saved your bacon again,” I giggled. “What is home without a mother?”
Uncle Ted was ranged on Peter’s side, of course, when he heard my story, and we had a glorious time with him and his dear “Old Dutch” as he called her. Condor and Sexton broke down and confessed when Uncle Ted accused them, and promised to produce the will. Peter didn’t send them back in custody but he said it was up to Mrs. Mears whether they’d prosecute or not.
Peter and I dined in state at the hotel that last night, Uncle Ted and Aunt Catherine with us, and Uncle Ted told us the stories of Winnipeg as it was depicted in the old paintings which panelled the walls and the story of the painter’s life.
I noticed Peter making passes at me, but my mind had left Winnipeg and was back east with my babies. I had borrowed Peter’s hankie, but it had slipped my mind, and I didn’t know he was in need of it. Finally his necessity must have been great, for from the distance I heard a voice say “Pokey—my handkerchief—” and still thinking of the babies, I said “Sniffle, Johnnie, mama’s busy.”
, There was a moment of horrified silence, broken by a mutter from Peter, a roar from Uncle Ted, and a choking cough from the hastily disappearing waiter.
“Peter, I’m sorry,” I gasped.
“ ’Snothing,” he said coldly—“ ’sless than nothing,” _ and turning to my relatives he continued—“Everywhere she goes she pulls some bone like this—only this is a mild one.”
“And everywhere I go I seem to be of some use to you,” I pointed out. “If I hadn’t blown the fuses out in the train—”
“All right, all right, all right,” said Peter. “I pass.”
“I think there is something coming to . me for what I’ve done on this trip,” I said.
“No doubt,” said Peter. “I’m hesitating between a diamond pin and a padded cell.”
THERE was a chuckle from Uncle Ted, and I caught a sparkle in Peter’s eye, although his face was grave.
“Well,” I said, “I only hope the trainman has extra fuses with him, for if he doesn't we’ll ride in darkness part way
home. I’ll hafta curl my hair between here and Toronto.”
The sparkle left Peter’s eye.
“Ruth,” he began sternly,—
“Unless I have a marcel here,” I supgested brightly.
Peter peeled a fiver off his roll and tendered it.
“Will that cover it, you little grafter?” he grinned.
“Well—hardly,” I said reaching for it, “these hotel beauty parlors—” .
But Peter was too quick for me.
“Tell ’em to put it on the bill,” he ordered, and put the fiver back.
I did and had a massage and manicure while I was at it.
Peter got a drawing-room for our homeward trip.
“Isn’t that pretty swanky for us, Peter?” I asked.
“Cheap at twice the price,” he retorted, and then, thinking that discretion was the better part of valor, he added: “I’m very tired, dear, I can relax if we are alone.”
“Peter,” I reminded him, “the Bible says that all liars shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.”
“I didn’t tell a lie,” he insisted.
“You dissembled,” I told him, “and that’s the same thing; you got that drawing-room for fear I would embarrass you some more.”
“All right,” said Peter, “since you’re so smart, I did.”
“Just you wait,” I said, “I’ll get even with you—not for the drawing-room— nothing would please me better—but for the insult to my—my years and the dignity of motherhood.”
Peter saw fit to laugh but—
He was sorry, for I bribed Uncle Ted and Aunt Catherine, and they came down to the train with a bunch of young people and pelted us with confetti, and Peter was wild.
“For just two cents I’d make you ride in the day coach for this,” he growled under his breath, as the grinning porter brushed him off and stepped aside to allow a stream of curious, smiling passengers to go by.
“You wouldn’t do it for a thousand dollars now,” I dared him. “I think it would be better if we had our meals served in here too, don’t you? It will give you a better chance to relax.”
Peter scowled ferociously, and then began to grin.
“You win,” he said, “if I had a head like yours—”
“We’d be riding in our private car,” I said modestly, as I rang for the waiter, and even though it wasn’t a real honeymoon—it was just as well that he knocked before he entered.
Pokey gets into trouble with the police, in another uproarious farce by Norma Phillips Muir, to appear in the June 1 issue -of MacLean's.