POKEY SAYS IT WITH TITLES
NORMA PHILLIPS MUIR
"One more 'haw' and you get oats," she tells Peter's English guest.
THE memory of Mother Ronald’s visitation was still too fresh in our minds for comfort when Fate again trumped our ace of contentment.
Pansy had everything practically ready for dinner, and I was sitting on the floor in the living room where a cosy fire was burning, playing bear with Joan and John, when the telephone rang, and to my prophetic mind there was a threat in its shrillness.
Pansy dropped a pan in the kitchen, shot through the hall, skidded on the rug and slid to second base without touching first.
“The phone is still in the old place,” I reminded her, as she wheeled and returned to it.
It was for me, and, leaving Pansy with the babies, I answered it.
“Hello, Ruth!” said Peter’s voice, “how is everything?”
“Fine,” I said, “why this sudden concern?” “Good,” he said, heartily. “I just thought I’d call up before I left for home.”
“Are you drunk or delirious?” I inquired uneasily, for Peter never telephones when he is leaving.
“By the way, dear,” he said, ignoring my bright little effort, “I am bringing Major and Mrs. Wayne up for dinner—they just arrived to-day from England—you’ve often heard me speak of Major Wayne.”
“So that’s the blister on your brain, is it?” I snapped. “Well, you can just take them to a hotel. This is a stew night.”
“I knew you would,” purred Peter. “Yes, that is the Major Wayne—usual time for dinner, dear?” “No—” I hollered. “Peter, don’t you dare bring them home. I’ve been eating onions and the curtains are down and the rugs up and Pansy has gone home for the evening and the babies both have sniffly noses. Take ’em to a hotel and feed ’em, don’t bring ’em here.”
“Haw—haw,” laughed Peter, hollowly—“yes, dear, they are right here beside me—I know you can hardly wait, but we won’t be long, possibly three-quarters of an hour.”
“Peter,” I wailed, “honest to gosh I’ve not a thing ready but stew. I can’t feed a dinner party on that,” but a sharp click told me that he had rung off.
“Double hot dam,” I exploded, and stood perfectly still for a moment—trying to think.
“Pansy,” I called, “we’re in the soup again—get the kiddy coop quick and then put on your hat and coat and your winged boots.”
“Hully gee, what’s up now?” asked Pansy, as she hurried through the hall with the kiddy coop flying in front of her.
“Mr. Ronald is bringing two Englishers up to dinner,” I said, thinking as I talked, “and what I shall do to him later won’t bear thinking of now. How many potatoes did you put in?”
“Siven, Ma’am,” said Pansy, “and I thought we’d have ’em baked.”
^ ‘Lord, baked Murphy’s in their hides for guests,” x gasped—“never mind, I’ll fix ’em. Pansy, you run and get eight more and wash them—while I make out a ligt..’1
pANSY went. The rug travelled at least two
yards in her whirlwind wake and she discarded her coat as she went.
“Be careful, Pansy—and for heaven’s sake’s don’t fall and get hurt now,” I called after her.
Then I wrote a note to the delicatessen man, and by the time Pansy had the potatoes in the oven I was ready with the note and instructions.
“If the delicatessen man won’t charge the stuff we’ll have to eat potatoes and puffed rice. Get some of those cream mints, Pansy, and for the love of mud, hurry,” I wailed.
Pansy Evangeline, her human map of Ireland aglow with excitement and importance, fled, and I went into the living room and sat down on the chesterfield for a moment’s clear thought.
“Mummie, p’ay?” demanded John.
“The woman always pays John,” I informed him; “you and Joan be good and mummie’ll give you sweeties,” and I absent-mindedly dropped a couple of books within their limited playground and went in to the kitchen.
“That’ll give us, soup—canned but camouflaged,” I planned, “oyster patties for the fish course, chicken—I pray the Lord he’s got a nice one—baked potatoes, dug out and stuffed, tinned peas—pine-apple with nuts for salad, and ice-cream—and just wait—O Peter, until they go home.” ,
The telephone rang again and I flew to it.
“Pokey—I couldn’t help it,” came Peter’s muffled voice. “I did my best when I let you know. Is there anything I can do?” he asked humbly.
“If you get them here before seven o’clock I’ll not be responsible for the consequences,” I said, and hung up the phone. It rang again furiously, but I didn’t answer it. I didn’t have time.
I opened the two cans of soup, added two cups of condensed cream, and set the tin on top of the oven in which the potatoes were already baking. Next I spread lettuce on the salad plates, put a ring of pineapple on each, added a generous dab of mayonnaise and sprinkled the whole with grated walnuts.
“Thank goodness I keep a supply of canned stuff in the house,” I soliloquized—“talk about your can-opener cooks—that’s me all over.”
I put the salads in the refrigerator, filled the lower part of the steamer with hot water and put it on the “simmerer” unttl Pansy should arrive with the chicken and, opening the peas, I let them heat while I took the cloth and silver from the dining-room table which was set for two and replaced it with the Cluny pieces which I save for special occasions.
“Now—the cream sauce for the oyster patties and I’m
done,” I gloated. “Fate may have dealt me a knock-out with that first call, but she’s relented and stepped outa line, I guess.”
Pansy came in just as I finished the > J cream sauce, staggering under the weight of a basket.
“By the feel of this thing the chicken’s stuffed with lead and every oyster’s fulla pearls,” she grunted, as she let it slump on the table.
“Pansy—you’re a pearl above price yourself,” I cried, “but you’ve got to have your wits about you to-night.”
A hasty glance at my watch told me that I still had ten minutes, and Pansy and I utilized the time in arranging the dishes for the respective courses. The chicken was heating in the steamer, the pota^ toes were nearly done, the patties were getting hot, the soup was creamy and steaming, and the icecream was to arrive at sharp seven-thirty.
“I’ve got to comb my hair,” I declared—“Pansy, take the books gently from the Bits—after you’ve given them each half a mint. What’s that?” for I suddenly spied a large parcel she had put beneath the table.
“I dunno,” said Pansy, “I found it on the sidewalk near the corner.”
Curiosity claimed my last spare moments, and ripping the wrappings off I revealed to the light a gorgeous bunch of rusty mums.
“Luck,” I cried, “Pansy, you’re hung about with horse shoes.”
“I hope so, ma’am,” she replied; “will I put them in the silver basket?”
U'ORTUNATELY, that afternoon, I had put on a * knitted silk dress which refuses to become* crumpled. It was champagne shade, and I had just time to comb my tousled hair and put on the French bronze pumps, which give me an added inch, when the bell rang.
“Funny Peter doesn’t walk right in,” I mused as I went down the hall
There was a sound of banging doors, a rush of feet, a scream and then a dull thud.
“Pansy!” I shrieked.
“Darn near bust my crust that time,” grunted Pansy, disgustedly, as she rose and limped toward the door.
“Transfer—baggage transfer,” said a rough voice.
“There’s nothing here to be taken,” I answered, going forward.
“I’ve two trunks for here, lady,” said the man civilly.
“There must be a mistake; what is the name?” “Eyre,” he said; “the address is right.”
“They’re not for here,” I insisted and, grumbling, he went away.
“Pansy,” I said, going into the kitchen, “I don’t want to scold...”
“I don’t want you to, neither,” she interrupted, sullenly. “I got a bump like the crack of doom, and I ain’t feelin’ like listenin’ to no lecture.”
“I’m sorry you hurt yourself,” I said, kindly, “but try to remember to walk—it’s not necessary to run to the door.”
“All right,” retorted Pansy, “now, give me the
“You serve to the right and take away from the left,” I informed her, and went through the serving rules, as I am forced to every time we entertain...... “Do you under-
She grinned. “I’ll get ’em fed and that’s the main thing. . .that’s them...” and as the bell rang again Pansy forgot my warning and rushed, like an unthinking war-horse, into the fray. She skidded again, as she always does, and went careening into the door.
“Kept me boots on the bath mat, anyway,” impishly as she opened the door—“step right in, good evening.” Peter ignored her, as did the man and woman with him.
“Mrs. Wayne, my dear,” he said, “and Major Wayne, my wife.”
“Chawmed,” murmured Mrs. Wayne, while the Major, who loomed before me like the shadows of judgment, said, “Haw” and taking my hand in his for a moment, dropped it suddenly as though the effort wore him out.
“Shakes hands like a fish,” I thought, as I made a bright remark to Mrs. Wayne and led her to the guest room to remove her wraps.
“So chawming of you to have us,” she said, graciously. “I couldn’t help it, sister,” I said, to myself, but to her I merely said how delighted I was, and wished I was living in the days when one could afford to tell the truth.
We wandered into the living-room where Peter and the Major stood looking down at the twins. Peter was beaming proudly, but the Major looked rather startled, and turning to his wife he said: “Twins, bah Jove!” “Fawncy!” she said, smiling at me.
“No—just ordinary and accidental,” I smiled back, whereat Peter’s Adam’s apple did a double hand spring, and the Major put a monocle in his eye and said intelligently: “Haw—bah Jove.”
“One more haw out of you and you get oats instead of chicken,” I soliloquized.
“Don’t they have twins in England?” I asked innocently.
“Not frequently,” retorted Mrs. Wayne.
“We quite go in for them here,” I informed her. “Twins, three times, and just see what a lovely family you have.”
“Remarkable,” exclaimed the Major, “quite remarkable.”
“Ruth,” began Peter, “I was just wondering—” “Mumee—” cooed Joan, holding up her arms.
“Yes, darling,” I said taking her up, “Mumee’s going to carry you off to bed now; pardon me for a few moments,” and smiling at the trio I tucked Joan under my arm and left the room, followed by Pansy with John.
We didn’t wash ’em—just put their little sleepers on, a pull-over apiece and left them with the lights burning and their pictures and rag babies.
“All right, Pansy, just give me time to sit down a moment and then announce dinner,” I said, and returned to the living-room. Pansy took me at my word. I just attained the flat surface of the chesterfield when she parted the curtains, and with a broad grin, said:
“Will y’eat now, folks?”
MRS. WAYNE shivered, Peter flushed scarlet, and the Major opened his mouth and then closed it again like a fish on dry land.
“Come,” I smiled, rising,-“—help in this country is such a problem that in order to get good girls we have to take them young and train them—Pansy has a heart of gold, but she is—frightfully raw yet.”
“Rare—I’m suah,” said the Major.
“No—just a bit raw,” I corrected him, unthinkingly. We were nicely started on the soup and Peter’s face was ablaze -with pride when Pansy came in and stood looking reproachfully at me.
“What is it, Pansy?” I asked in a voice I strove to make amused.
“This’s a real he-meal, ma’am, and you never prayed over it!” she reminded me.
Peter gulped his spoonful of soup and gave me an agonized glance.
“Thank you Pansy,” I said gravely, and lowered rny head while Peter muttered “F’r what we’r about t’eat, thank God.”
“Sworth more’n that,”
Pansy informed us ere she left.
“Incorrigible,” I sighed.
“I’d jolly well discharge her,” said Mrs. Wayne rudely.
I noticed Peter eye-brow signs removed the bouillon but it wasn’t until Wayne’s hands began to wander in a definite, seeking fashion over her lap arid knees that I discovered I had omitted serviettes.
“How stupid of me,” I murmured. “Pansy, will you please give us some serviettes.”
“Gee, we forgot the bibs,” she gurgled, and took from the linen drawer the embroidered luncheon serviettes.
“No—the big ones,” I said smiling, and asked about the trip across while Pansy rummaged and talked to herself.
No more mishaps occurred until the fowl was being served, and Peter, not meeting my eye, proceeded to pile up the plates while Pansy looked more and more apprehensive. By this time, too, I had discovered that Major Wayne’s silly “Haw” and foppish manner covered a huge capacity for food. Croutons, soup, patty oysters, almost the pattern on the plate disappeared with amazing swiftness under his rapacious attack.
To Mrs. Wayne, Peter gave most of the white meat and a double joint; I got a wing, and then he addressed the Major.
“What is your preference, old man?” he asked.
“Oh—Rally, it don’t matter,” he answered, “a leg, a wing—a bit of the white meat and what-not.”
“Gosh,” breathed Pansy, passing Mrs. Wayne the peas at the right hand side.
Mrs. Wayne had just grasped the spoon when Pansy caught my eye, and quick as a flash she snatched the dish from under Mrs. Wayne’s very nose and delivered it at the other side.
“My mustake,” she smiled and looked appealingly at me.
“Pansy,” I murmured under cover of helping myself to peas—“telephone quickly—and very softly to the delicatessen and tell him to fly over here with another chicken—quick.”
PANSY put the entree dish on the table and vanished.
I heard the soft closing of the kitchen door and then there was silence. Peter was recalling a wonderful cricket game which he and the Major had witnessed while he was in England, and Mrs. Wayne was listening raptly, when the door burst open and Pansy catapulted in.
“Please, ma’am,” she said breathlessly, “they haven’t got another chicken; will bulogny do, he says?”
“Thank him and say no,” I directed her. “Tell him I shall come in the morning and choose what I want”— but it didn’t work.
Mrs. Wayne’s eyes were dangerously bright, and the Major looked sullen, while Peter’s mouth set in grim lines.
“Here’s a hide dish,” announced Pansy, brightly, putting a chintz bowl on the table, “for the potatohides,” she amplified.
I ignored her.
“We have potatoes at least once a week baked in their jackets,” I said, “there is so much food value in the skin—and the doctor has recommended it for Peter.”
“That’s true,” assented Peter, putting so much accent on the “true” that it appeared to be the only veracious statement which had been made.
Conversation palled and just when I was growing desperate enough to start on the weather, Mrs. Wayne broke the silence.
“I hope our trunks have arrived,” she said.
“I hope so indeed,” I said brightly, while to myself
I smiled to think how funny she would look in one of my nighties, for she belongs to the tall, svelte type. “What I mean to say is—have they come?”
“I don’t know, but we might telephone the hotel and inquire,” I suggested.
“Hotel,” said Mrs. Wayne, “but I understood—” “Major and Mrs. Wayne are staying with us, .dear, of course,” interrupted Peter.
“Of course,” I murmured faintly. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
“Our arrival was so sudden,” smiled Mrs. Wayne. “Yes, indeed, just like a thunderstorm,” I agreed,
“that is, I mean, sudden, you know.”
“Haw, quite,” guffawed the Major, while Peter steadily avoided meeting my eye.
“Let us have coffee in the living room,” I suggested, rising on legs which wobbled beneath me, and I led the way from the dining room.
“As a matter of fact,” I continued, “your trunks came and I sent them away again, but that was before I knew about your—visit—and any way the baggage man said the name Eyre—I. V. Eyre.
“That’s your wretched writing George,” said Mrs. Wayne. “His name’s George Herbert and he gets both names,” she laughed, as Peter finished his coffee, hurriedly, and telephoned to the baggage transfer company to locate the trunks and hustle them up.
TT WAS one awful evening. The moment that Peter -*■ or I stopped talking a deadly quiet ensued, broken only by Pansy’s nasal soprano in the kitchen, singing, “Jewrusalum the Golden,” with every third note flat. Finally the Major asked Peter a pertinent question concerning the best paying investments, and I knew that Peter was mounted on his hobby and would ride until bed-time.
“I suppose this is the quietest part of the year, socially?” asked Mrs. Wayne.
“Oh, no,” I said, “the debutantes, of course, have the corner on evening parties, but there are so many luncheons and bridges that I simply can’t take them all in.”
“How delightful,” she enthused, “and—pardon my asking—but is there a distinct social class here, such as we have in England?”
“Yes, indeed,” I said, with one eye on Peter, “fewer titles of course, and less money—but quite as rotten, my dear—quite.”
“How interesting,” she gushed, “and do you—are you—pardon me.”
“Certainly,” I smiled. “Society bores me dreadfully —but one owes a certain debt to one’s statipn, and then, there is always such delightful scandal.”
“I wonder if I would be likely to meet any of these people at—public affairs,” she hinted.
“Scarcely,” I feared, “but”—as a sudden malicious thought was born—“I would be delighted to give a tea for you while you are with me and have you meet my friends.”
“That is perfectly charming of you—but quite too good,” she beamed. “I wonder if you would think I was frightfully bold if I should ask that it be a bridge— just a wee one if you like —select—but I adore bridge and I haven’t had a decent game since we sailed— wretched players on board my dear—simply beastly.” “Bridge it shall be,” I consented, “and now—I’m sure you’d like to retire— you must be so wearied— I shall be able to fix you up for the night, all right.”
LEFT her raving over my extreme kindness, and after seeing that the babies were all right I got ready for bed. Peter came in about half-an-hour and, by midnight, the house was a well of silent darkness, except for Peter’s whispered explanation.
“If it had just been a case of friendship I’d have sent Bertie to a hotel, all right,” he said. “He really isn’t a friend of mine—I only met him a couple of times—but he was attached to Corps headquarters when we were camping at Ripon —and, like everybody did in those days, I told him to look me up if he ever came to Canada—and gave him my address. As a matter of fact it may be very well that I did, for he is over here on business for Murdock, Malcolm and Fraser, and told me—in confidence —that, whoever he recommends, will be made their representative over here—look after the legal end of their affairs, here—and I’d like to have Newton Rawdon and Ronald snaffle onto that.”
“Still, Peter,” I said hotly, “only an hour’s noticq and—”
“Well—Bertie called on me as soon as they landed here—didn’t even choose a hotel until he’d called at the office and asked my advice as to which would be the homiest. Introduced me to Mrs. Wayne and said she was so tired of formality and fuss—and did I know Continued on page 39
Pokey Says It With Titles
Continued from page 18
of any real home-like place where they could go until he knew just where he was at. Seemed all at loose ends, Bertie did.”
“That’s what he gets by traveling without his nurse,” I interjected; “go on, Peter—and then what?”
“Why, I offered to have them put up with us for a day or two—sort of gave Bertie a chance to see what sort of firm we were—you know—being with me where I might influence him—and then I did feel sorry for them.”
PETER went to sleep, but I couldn’t.
I was too full of thought and, after awhile, I thought I heard Joan sneeze, so I tip-toed down the hall to the nursery and tucked her in. I saw there was a light under the Waynes’ door, but it wasn’t until I caught Peter’s name, as I was passing it, that I unconsciously paused. What I heard certainly gave me food for more thought. ... At first I decided to tell Peter, but a sudden brain wave warned me that another course would be the best to follow and, after outlining my campaign, I was able to go to sleep.
“Peter, have you told the chief about what Major Wayne is over here for?” I asked, as we were dressing.
“I didn’t get a chance last night,” he said. “I shall this morning, though, why?” “I wouldn’t,” I said, “it would be so much nicer if you could cinch it first, and then hand it, all ready to eat, so to speak, to Mr. Newton.”
“Something in what you say,” agreed Peter.
The Major slaughtered half a grape fruit, six strips of bacon, two eggs, a pint of porridge, five rounds of toast and four cups of coffee, and then assured me, that,
although breakfast was his lightest meal, he always enjoyed it thoroughly.
“Hope you get a coffee jag and tell all you know,” I thought, vindictively, and then I had to be nice to Mrs. Wayne and plan for her party.
“I shan’t have time to send Out cards —your plans are so indefinite,” I said pointedly, “so I think I shall just call them up and invite them.”
“Do you know them well enough for that?” she hesitated.
“Oh, quite,” I smiled. “I was just wondering if you wouldn’t like to have a look around our best stores while I am rounding them up and making my arrangements. There are a few little things you might be able to do for me—tallies, you know, and a prize,” I added.
She went happily away, an hour later, with a list half as long as my arm, and my charge account number to obviate the bother of waiting for change.
“Now,” I said to Pansy, after the babies were bathed, fed and ready for their ride, “I’m going to give you five dollars if you will do exactly as I tell you to do to-morrow,” and when Pansy had promised I sent her out with the twins to memorize what she had been told.
THEN I rushed to the phone, got Marion, and told her what was up, and asked her to help me out. She promised, and I gave her the names of four of the girls to call, and invite to my bridge— telling them what to wear, and that they were to swing the lead for a fare-you-welh Mrs. Wayne’s trunk came before I had finished with all the phoning, and things were just beginning to smooth themselves out in my brain when she came back.
“The party’s all arranged,” I told her, “there will only be two tables—my intimate friends—you understand I couldn’t ask acquaintances on such short notice—Lady Marion Merson; her sisterin-law Miss Merson; Mrs. Stimson; Mrs. Hector Hampton—her husband is a lawyer; Lady Betty Logan—also a barrister’s wife, Mrs. Allison and ourselves. Small but select,” I added.
“Charming,” she beamed, “you say that both Lady Merson and Lady Logan are barristers’ wives?”
“Yes—fairly well to do—but of course real good clients are not over-running the Continued on page 40
Continued from page 39 earth—we know, don’t we?” I said, ruefully, and she agreed.
“Peter’s firm and these other two have had a little difficulty—nothing serious you know—but if you don’t mind I’d rather you didn’t mention to him that their wives will be here,” I intimated—“it is so foolish for wives to take up their husband’s business battles—don’t you think?”
“I certainly do,” she affirmed—“I shall be discretion itself, my dear.
THINGS went swimmingly at the beginning of the party. Peter was delighted that I was falling in line so sweetly and didn’t worry me with questions. In fact, he played up beautifully, and sent me a dozen bronze mums for the living room.
I was gratified to see that my guest thought the occasion worth a good frock, and she really looked lovely in a dove grey lace frock over orchid, with amethyst pendant and bracelet.
“How wonderful,” I cried, when she entered the living room, “but, my dear— aren’t amethysts a bit old for you?”
That did it. If I’d been sugar she’d have sucked me after that.
“You just look like a darling kewpie, yourself,” she said.
“Kewpies are rather rotund for the present style,” I said, tartly, and then the hell rang, and I saw the limousine I was paying for, roll away from the door.
“I hope Pansy behaves to-day,” I laughed, “I certainly warned her, but then—the girls all know her, so it doesn’t really matter.”
I heard soft footfalls in the hall, and a few moments later the portieres were held back, and Pansy’s voice announced—in no uncertain tones—
“Lady Merson and Miss Merson.”
They both kissed me, and I presented Mrs. Wayne who was all animation and charm.
“Pansy is really coming on, isn’t she?” laughed Marion—alias Lady Merson.
The rest of the clique arrived as quickly as the limousine—which I had rented for the afternoon—could pick them up, and then Pansy brought in the card tables. I produced and gave out the tallies, and we seated ourselves.
“What rules do you play?” asked Mrs. Wayne.
“Four honors in one hand and fifth in partners, or five in one hand,” I said, “and four aces. We’ll play quick game, 125 points, game a hundred, and no rubbers.”
“What stakes do we piay for?” she asked.
“The usual two cents a point?” asked Betty.
“Agreeable,” she smiled, and then the play started. She won right from the first.
I watched carefully, when I saw how she was scoring, but she must have just been lucky, for she won steadily, and at the end of the second hour, after five progressions, her score stood at three thousand odd. She would net a cool $60.00, plus the
j~AURING the last hand Pansy appeared, following a ring at the bell, and silently beckoned me. What I went for was well worth my trouble, and I felt like Napoleon when I re-entered the living'room. What caught my eye caused me to halt as though I had four wheel brakes.
Shall we stop now?” I asked gaily, and I noted the quick displeasure in Mrs. Wayne’s face, but she agreed as the others did, and they began settling up. It was then that I dropped my first little bomb.
(t; I waK just thinking,” I said, gently, a few dollars either way does not mean much to any of us - suppose we make a pool of the winnings and send them to the Children’s Aid?”
“Oh, but ” began Mrs. Wayne, quickly, and then bit her lip, while the others chorused an enthusiastic assent. I collected the little piles of change and mils, and put them in the copper rose
Pansy deftly removed the cards and tables and we went into the dining room.
I saw the girls, with mischief in their eyes, watching Mrs. Wayne as she sought out and devoted herself almost exclusclusively to the two titles.
They were still looking mischievous when Pansy entered with the dainty plates filled with steaming hot baked
beans, each little mound capped with a golden sausage, and the base surrounded with thin wafers of dill pickles.
“How deliciously original,” gushed Mrs Wayne—“at home it would have been jellied boullion and chicken salad—and here we get sausage and beans.”
“We’re so democratic,” I simpered, and it’s rather hard to get chicken here now they don’t like to kill them since their feathers have become so valuable for toques and fans, you know.”
“Fancy now,” said Mrs. Wayne, trying not to make a face over the dill pickle.
DETTY took up the conversation, and -D again the bell rang. A moment later I heard Pansy’s voice arguing with some one.
“No, you don’t—I ain’t gonna have you put your foot on the flower bed— she’s here all right but you can’t see her. Go on home.”
“I fear Pansy is on the rampage,” I laughed, “ex—”
Bob Logan strode into the room.
“Hello, Pokey, that Irislrrebel of yours tried to keep me out,” he announced, “hello, everybody, hello Betsy Anne.”
I felt cold—the sort of cold you feel when you wake up in the night and count five feet in the bed.
“Bob,I want you to meet Mrs. Wayne,” said Betty, faintly, making room for Bob beside her—“my husband.”
“So charmed to meet you, Sir Robert,” she said, smiling coquettishly.
“Anybody seen my yacht around?” asked Bob of the company in general.
.There was a ghastly pause,
“Bob, will you have something to eat?”
I asked faintly.
“I sure will,” he said, heartily. “I’ve been so busy feeling pulses all day that I’ve only had time for a roast beef sandwich. Gee, that looks good.”
“You’re hand on the pulse of the legal world?” asked Mrs. Wayne, interestedly.
“Limp wrists, rather,” said Bob, between beans.
I gave Betty a wild look and motioned doorward, but she shook her head.
“Did you see Peter, to-day, Bob?” I asked, trying desperately to head off an explanation.
“Yes, wanted him to come over tonight, but he said you were stuck with—° that is he couldn’t manage it.”
“Do you and Mr. Ronald belong to the same clubs, Sir Robert?” asked Mrs. Wayne, who had missed the last shot.
“Excuse me,” said Bobby, putting down his plate, “one of us is a little— OUCH.”
“Goodness, Bobby, you might have known those beans were hot,” said Betty, reprovingly, and, turning to Mrs. Wayne, she said very distinctly while I could see her one hand pinching Bobby into silence, “Sir Robert is a little deaf.” “Oh,” smiled Mrs. Wayne.
AT THIS point Marion asked Mrs TAWayne about the Bond Street shops, and kept her at it for several moments, during which Pansy removed the plates and served the ice-cream with hot chocolate sauce.
“What’s this, gravy?” asked Bob.
“Isn’t he cute,” said Mrs. Wayne and, focusing her attention full on him, she asked loudly, “Sir Robert, have you any twins?”
“My God, no,” yelled Bobby. “I’ve got a motorcycle and a Boston bull, but twins—” and he shuddered.
“Bobby,” I said, crossly, “you make me sick; go home.”
“Not until I have some tea,” he said, “besides I want to speak to Peter. I think I’ve got a client for him. One of my patients is going to bring suit for damages—auto accident—and I want to prime Peter before he gets there. See?”
, Mrs. Wayne looked full at me, and I didn t bat an eyelash, although I knew the game was up.
“Bobby, didn’t you know Major Wayne when you were overseas?” I asked, and Bobby catching my eye, gave hearty acquiescence.
“Then you’ll be so glad to meet him again,” I said, “he’s staying here with us —he and Mrs. Wayne.”
“Delighted,” murmured Bobby, who was looking more mystified every moment, and just then there were steps in the hall and Pansy preceding them, broke into the dining room.
“Here’s the five, ma’am,” she said, waving a five dollar bill at me—“I did my durndest but the d’vil’s in the driving
seat,” and on her heels came Peter and Major Wayne.
“Mr. Ronald, will you introduce my husband to these—ladies?” asked Mrs. Wayne, rudely.
“That is my prerogative, Mrs. Wayne,” I said, quietly, “Major Wayne, Lady Logan, Mrs. Stimson, Mrs. Hampton, Lady Merson, Miss Merson, Mrs. Allison, and—Sir Robert Logan.”
Peter’s mouth sagged and Bobby flushed scarlet, but nothing else happened. Pansy produced more beans, sausages and dill pickles, and with them some of the wafer-like slices of brown bread.
Peter’s eyebrows were still up in his hair, but he didn’t attempt to make me meet his eye, and the conversation went on quietly, except for a certain shrill note in Mrs. Wayne’s voice.
“You’re wife’s been playing tricks on me, Mr. Ronald,” she cried, gayly, “she told me that Sir Robert was a lawyer.”
“So I am,” lied Bobby, “but I practise medicine between cases.”
“Oh,” she said, “how novel, and does it work?”
“So so,” said Bobby, noncommittally. Her eyes narrowed and I thought it was about time to end the farce.
“How did you leave your brother, Major Wayne?” I asked, and in the silence his knuckles whitened about the edge of the plate.
“Very well, thank you,” he said.
“Is he still in the bond business?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, and Peter shot me an interrogating look.
“And do you still look as much like each other as you used to?” I asked.
He merely nodded to that, and Iinformed the company, “you know— Major Wayne has a twin brother—George —they are extraordinarily alike—in so many ways. George wasn’t in the war, though, was he?” I asked, and before the Major could answer Mrs. Wayne put her cup down suddenly.
“So stuffy,” she murmured—-“I feel rather faint”—and her husband helped her from the room.
The others left immediately.
“I could throttle Bob,” whispered Betty, “but of course, he didn’t know; I’d just told him I was coming over for bridge.”
“All right,” I said, “it really doesn’t matter. She’d have found out later, anyhow, I guess.”
THEN they were all gone and Peter, in a towering rage, was facing me.
“What do you mean by acting so cheaply?” he stormed. “Are our friends not enough in themselves that you have to decorate them with false titles and professions? Sometimes I wonder if you are perfectly all right in the head.”
“You’ll think I am!” I promised; “now get this. I never did cotton to those Waynes. They may be guests but they weren’t welcome and they weren’t real friends. The night they came I went into the_ nursery late and when I went past their door I heard him say, ‘Ronald’s ass enough to swallow anything!’ I paused for g moment, stunned, and while I stood there Mrs. Wayne's voice said—‘she’s no better—another case of twins! Do you think his firm is your juicy plum, old thing?’ ‘Hard to tell ’till I look over the ground,’ he said, ‘by-the-by don’t you call me George again—you covered it, but —one can’t tell’.”
“My Heavens!” gasped Peter.
“Exactly,” I said, “so next day, when she seemed so anxious to meet up with what she called real society, I thought that if they were on the level, they’d take a joke, and if they weren’t—it didn’t matter, so I asked the girls for bridge, and gave two of them titles and barrister husbands, for the legal profession also seemed to have charms. Well, the first thing our friend did was to ask what stakes we’d play for—and then she took sixty dollars from my guests.”
Peter sat down weakly.
“ ’N that ain’t all,” I said, “I was called into the hall, and when I came back I saw her lift her pince nez, and the way she tilted it she got back a reflection of her partner’s band. And,” I concluded, “it was to receive this that I went into the hall,” and I handed him a cablegram.
“Major Bert Wayne lives 16 Torrance Terrace, in bond business in London—has a twin brother George now in Canada-—was in some difficulty—now representing Murdock, Malcolm and Fraser. Cox.”
“Holy Mackinaw,” breathed Peter, that s it, he’s not Bertie at all—he’s George.”
. “Wonderful, Watson, Wonderful!” I gibed.
“But how did you—Ruth—”
. “Deduction, Watson,” I said, “deduction, my dear fellow. Listen, Peter, after what I heard I smelled a rat. Then she was so anxious to meet the bigwigs and so interested in'lawyers, that I got another hunch. She was keen for Bertie to meet your club men, too, laughingly said the dear old bean had to have his poker. Altogether I deduced that theywere a couple of deadbeats. I suddenly remembered Cox and Company, with whom I had some communications during the war, and so I cabled them, asked the whereabouts and business of Major Bertie Wayne, and if he had any brothers. You see the result.”
“Yes, but—what are we going to do, now?” asked Peter, helplessly.
“Get the Murdock, Malcolm and Fraser business and let them go home,” I said, “you leave it to me.”
“I don’t think—”
“That’s your main trouble,” I told him, “and don’t overdo it now—you might collapse—just trust mama, and do as I tell you.”
BERTIE came, looking a bit green about the gills, and his wife who had changed swiftly into her travelling suit, came with him.
“It really isn’t cricket,” began Peter. “You haven’t got anything on me,” mumbled Wayne.
“Impersonation with intent to defraud,’
I put in, and Peter turned a surprised look upon me.
“How do you make that out?” asked Mrs. Wayne.
“Your husband is not Major Bert Wayne, he is Mister George Wayne,”
I said, “you have traded upon his supposed intimacy with my husband to keep yourselves in our home—defrauding us of the money you should have been paying in board.”
“Ruth,” said Peter, sternly, “you forget that Major Wayne is still my friend.” “No,” I said, “I do not. If Mr. and Mrs Wayne here, had come as your friend’s brother and his wife, we would have made them welcome, but they chose to deceive us, to use us and our friends to their purpose.”
“We shall not stay to be insulted,” cried Mrs. Wayne. “Come, George.”
“We shall send a cable to Murdock, Malcolm and Fraser regarding this matter, to-night,” I added, “and we shall also let them know that you intended selling their representation to whoever offered ‘the juiciest plum,’ ” I added, “It is the only honorable thing to do. A man who would sell his firm would sell them to crooks and shysters.”
“Don’t do that,” said Wayne, sharply. “Where you got the goods I don’t know, but I admit you’ve got it—I’ll—I’ll ask Newton, Rawdon and Ronald to act for my firm if you don’t cable. Old Murdock is my uncle—if he passed me up—I don’t know what I’d do—”
“You’d likely get an honest-to-goodness job and hold it, Wayne,” said Peter, kindly. “I’m more sorry than I can say that this thing has happened.”
There was a long pause.
“Will you take the business and not cable?” asked Wayne.
“We shan’t cable,” promised Peter, “but if your offer of the representation is a bribe for silence—I can’t take it. It would look like blackmail profits.”
“It isn’t—I think it would be as much in my interests, as in yours, to have your firm act for us,” said Wayne, with a partial return of his assurance.
“Very well, then—you see Newton in the morning,” said Peter, “and, as for this unpleasantness, you may rest assured that it will go no further. Ruth, you did not tell the girls anything?”
“No,” I said, “only that titles and the legal profession seemed to be particularly pleasing, and so we’d play them up.”
The Waynes bowed and left and Peter stood there while we stared at each other.
“Well,” I said, “you got your business. You’ve protected the Scotch firm from shysters, you’ve saved Bertie’s little brother from becoming a rogue. Peter, what you deserve is the F.F.L. medal.” “What’s the F.F.L.?” he asked. “Obviously,” I said, “It’s Fool For Luck.’ ”