PETER and POKEY MEET PEGASUS
If Pokey doesn't trip over the portals of Heaven when about to enter, Peter most likely would refuse to enter, on the ground that there’s a trick in it somewhere. But can you blame him?
NORMA PHILLIPS MUIR
FOR nearly a week Peter had been coming home nights fulla silence, which, for him, is a sign that something is brewing—or brewed.
"Peter,” I said on the fifth night, "I want to know what is on your mind.”
"Nothing but a continually thinning layer of hair, pet.” he said brightly. "What makes you think there is anything else there?”
"Well, you've got underslung vocal organs, overhung brow and a far-flung temper,” 1 retorted. "Isn’t that enough?”
Peter had another serving of silence and then he sighed, one of those long rattly ones that cause much disturbance to the diagram, and then he looked at me long and hard and opened up: "It's like this, Ruth,” he began. "I’ve got to go West again and l can't make up my mind whether to take you or leave you honre.”
"Hooray!” I yelled.
I said —" interrupted Peter.
"I know, but I can't bear to see you suffer so I'm making up your mind for us. I'm going with you. When do we start?”
Peter gave in. of course, and when I wired Aunt Joan a resume of the situation she wired back: "Arriving tomorrow night. Delighted." So that was settled and I knew I’d have the Bits off my mind. A week of frenzied shopping followed, and then the day dawned, and in its wake came a row. Peter thought I had too much luggage, and didn't use a dictionary to pick his words in telling me so.
"Whatcha think this is?—a harvesters' excursion?” he asked, surveying my two suit-cases and hat box with disfavor. "Why’nt you take a trunk to put in the parcel rack? You take one suit-case and a club bag, Mrs. Ronald, and nothing more.”
I obeyed, of course, but I took a couple of shirts, his riding breeks and several other little things out of Peter's suit-case to make room for my things, and so everything was serene for the time being.
The Bits seemed enchanted at the thought of having no one but Aunt Joan to contend with, and it quite tore my heart to realize that they were not worrying about my absence.
"Do you think they realize the wonder of a mother’s love?" I asked Peter tremulously as we tucked them in, the night we were leaving.
"Sure,” grinned Peter. “And I’ll bet a cookie they know something about the dampness of a mother’s tears before long. We haven’t so much as gone around the block without you bellerin’.”
"Well, I won’t to-night, because I can just pretend I'm only leaving them the same as I do every night when they go to bed,” I said. “It’ll be when I waken in the morning that I'll realize how far away my babies are.”
"Yah—but for gosh' sake don’t wait until morning to get the sob-stuff outta your system,” advised Peter. "If you pull any more pathos on the tram — redrimmed eyes and swollen face, et cetera—I'll tell the passengers you’re just getting over the measles.”
SO I was a stoic.
I had a sore throat from continually downing the same lump and I felt like a cross between a camel’s hump and a song called "The Return of the Swallows," but I didn’t shed a tear, and Peter who was all primed for:
“ What'd I tell you?” didn't even have a chance to 3how his samples.
"It doesn't seem possible that we’ve been almost two days ou the train without you losing our reputation o* shaking our social standing,” he said.
"Them last’s hard words to say if you’re spiflicated, Pop." I giggled. “Say it fast, Peter—shaking shocial
"1 was registering thankfulness, not facetiousness,” said Peter. "Ah the same if 1 hadn’t taken a compartment my bet is that you’d have had this trip tied in bow-knots before this.”
"There are only two days gone out of five, darling,” I reminded him, “and it’s never too late to mend.”
"Ruth—” he began, apprehensively, looking about the diner.
"I want two cackle-berries, one fried on one side, and one on the other,” I said, smiling sweetly at the waiter.
“Hi beg pardon, Ma’am,” he stammered.
"Two cackle-berries, one fried on one side and one on the other,” I repeated.
"Hi’m sorry, Ma’am, but--”
“Two fried eggs,” snarled Peter, and as the waiter moved off he grabbed his glass of water and tipped it up so quickly that the ice clinked against his teeth.
"Careful dear,” I warned him gently. But the icewater had snuggled around a tooth with a sensitive nerve, and Peter had lost his eyebrows in the forest of his front hair, and his face looked as though he had paralysis of the fifth nerve.
“You cut out the funny work or you’ll take an eastbound train at Winnipeg,” he threatened.
L) UT it was when we left Winnipeg that the trouble -*-) started. Peter had to stay over a day, and he forgot to reserve the compartment, so that when we went on we had to content ourselves with a section.
“I like the lower ’cause it’s easier to get into, but I like the upper ’cause it’s airier,” I said. “I don’t know—”
“Don’t worry; I do,” said Peter. “You’re going to take the upper. Last time I put you in the lower you sneaked out and caused a riot. This time you use the little ladder and I’ll be on guard below.”
“It’s not my idea of chivalry,” I said.
“It’s my idea of safety,” countered Peter, and that ended it or would have if we hadn’t had an accident.
Not having our own little dressing room I had to take my pullman robe and undress in the ladies’ dressing room, and it wasn’t too bad for there was only one other lady in there with me. I folded all my garments carefully and put them on the chair and was almost ready to go when the other one announced that as there didn’t
seem to be any other women in our car and I was through she thought she’d just take a sponge bath.
I encouraged her politely, not urgently you know, and she was stripped to one single garment, briefer
than bliss, when I gathered up my belong ings and left her to her ablutions.
“If you run outta towels holler, and I’ll bring a blotter,” I giggled as I saw her look disparagingly at the small linen towels in the rack. “Silly nut,” I soliloquized, “I’ll bet she’s the kind who’ll complain at the end of the trip, of the service, because there wasn’t a bath mat, Turkish towels and a shower for her. The good old railroad isn’t running a parlor, bedroom, and bath compartment.”
Then I went and shinnied up the little ladder and was soon fast asleep, my clothes swinging in their little string hammock, and Peter snoring my lullaby below.
It couldn’t have been more than half an hour later that I awakened with the most dreadful screams ringing in my ears. It seemed, too, as though everyone was calling to someone else, and when I rolled over and leaned out it was to see Peter streaking it down the aisle toward the ladies’ dressing room from which the screams were issuing.
“Gosh,” I thought. “Ain’t I glad I’m not it this time!”
I struggled into my snappy pullman robe and joined the procession. The noise was getting less by this time, and from fragments of. the conversation I gathered that there was some lady locked in the dressing room or something, and that the porter couldn’t be found.
“I’ll bet it’s my cleanly comrade,” I thought. “Maybe she tried to take an Oliver in the basin and got cramp.”
I, being one of the last on the scene, was just on the outer fringe of the crowd and hadn’t been able to get in touch with Peter who had assumed command.
“Stop that yelling and tell me what’s wrong?” he hollered.
“O! 0! 0! 0!—I! I! I! I!-” quavered the voice!
“Bet a dime she’s run out of towels,” I giggled, and then Peter’s voice silenced me.
“Stop that yodelling, I tell ya,” he ordered. “Put your head under the ice water tap and then tell us what’s wrong. Open that door!”
The crescendo lost volume but didn’t quite die and Peter turned to the crowd, but somehow missed me.
“It’s my wife,” he informed them. “I gotta get her out.”
“Why—” I began. But Peter didn’t hear me so I just stood pat. “This’s gonna be good,” I thought. “I’ll just—
“Now you tell me what's wrong. D’ya hear?” said Peter.
Nothing but gurgles seeped through the door.
“Are you locked in?” he shouted.
“Yes—I locked me in,” sobbed the voice.
“Then unlock you out,” he ordered.
“I c-c-c-can’t,” came a wail. “You see—”
“Guess we’ll have to break the door in,” said Peter. “I got to get my wife outta there. Where’s the porter?”
“Right here, boss,” came the answer, and our nice
porter stepped forward with t he whites of his eyes playing turn-out-jack. “Dat lady, Boss—she cut up awful when I did try to open de doah foah her.” "Never mind her; get it open!” said Peter. And the porter produced a corkscrew and got busy at the hinges, whereat the colloratura soprano behind the barrier did her stuff in the upper register better than I'd ever heard it done on the stage.
“Don’t!" she shrieked. “I'll open it. I promise I will.” “And what you get when you do is going to make you holler in another key." threatened Peter. And I had to eat some of the maribou on my gown to keep from roaring
“J-j-j-j-ust give me a moment," wept the captive. And there was silence and plenty of it. and then the door swung open an inch and Peter put a hand in the
crack and pushed it farther open and bounced in. There was the sound of a loud smack and Peter bounced out again, his hand to his cheek and his eyes rolling and sticking out like a pimple on a pump.
“You dare—” came the voice, and then the lady of the altercation appeared, and when she did I nearly broke my jaw it fell so hard.
SHE was still wearing her pink singleton, but around the bottom of it, godet fashion, she had pinned a row of damp towels. Three more tied together formed a scarf which she wore jauntily about her shoulders, and another row hung panel-wise from neck to where the hem would have been if there’d been one.
“Sufferin’ Sockeye!” shouted Peter.
“You—” she began, pushing into the ladies’ room! “What I want to know is who—”
“It ain’t my wife,” carolled Peter. “It ain’t my wife!”
“I wondered when you’d had time to commit bigamy,” I said, pushing my way forward. “That just shows you what you get for jumping to conclusions. You ought to—”
“So there you are! Thief!” hissed the woman. And she grabbed me by the shoulder, but I was in a position to jerk free and she didn’t dare even shiver.
“She’s cookoo,” I told the crowd. “Somebody send for a crate and we’ll give her peanuts through the slats.”
I’m not such a fool as I look.
I—” she cried.
‘Don’t suggest the impossible,”
“Give me back my clothes,” she screamed hysterically.
“Can’t someone loan her something?” I begged. “This is real trouble. To go suddenly demented far from home ...”
“Gimme my clothes!” she roared.
“Is there a doctor on the train?” asked some man. '“You’d better keep back, madam. She may get •violent.”
“Ruth,” broke in Peter, “do you know this •woman?”
“No,” I said. “I’ve seen a lot of her. I mean to say she and I—” and then I stopped. A fearful thought had come to me. Again I saw her in her pink brevity. Again I saw myself pick up the clothes from-the chair and sweep the room with a glance to be sure I had missed nothing. In retrospect I couldn’t remember seeing any clothes belonging to anybody, and my heart skipped a couple of beats.
“I have a feeling—” I said faintly.
“Oh, heavens! I mighta known it,” wailed Peter.
‘ You dare deny it?” shrieked the woman.
“Hold the line a minute, sister,” I begged her. “I’m thinking.”
“Ruth—” said my husband sternly.
“Save it!” I told him. And turning I ran swiftly to our section, shimmied up and began to search feverishly among the clothes in the little hammock, and the first thing I drew was twins in the corset line, and after that a blue stocking appeared, and— Well, why linger over the painful situation. I had gathered up her dry goods with my own, and I went back with sad feet to the crowd and handed over her apparel.
“Accidents will happen,” I said, more jauntily than I felt. “I must have picked up everything.”
“Accident!” she hissed.
“Use your head,” I said rudely. “What good would your duds be to me? I wear a misses sixteen, and you’d get a fit just as well in the infants’ wear as in the misses. Besides, if you hadn’t put your clothing on top of mine, which was most rude—”
“And unsanitary,” she interjected.
“Exactly,” I agreed.
“Aw, come on to bed. I bet on my wife,” said Peter.
N SILENCE we went back to our respective sections, but when I would have gone up the ladder Peter caught my arm and waved me into the lower.
“Git in there,” he said.
“But I want my own bed,” I objected.
“You’ll be glad £he upholstery is soft if you don’t hop it,” he said. “I might have known better than to have brought you. If something hadn’t happened I’d have died of delayed despair.”
“Then I saved your life, didn’t I, dear?” I snickered, but Peter just rolled in beside me and refused to lister to my perfectly logical explanation.
J7‘But, Peter, if—”
“What’s done is dished. Now go to sleep,” he said.
I HONESTLY tried to, but sleep wouldn’t come. It was most annoying, lying there jammed against the window and knowing that upstairs my nice airy bed was going to waste, so I made sure that Peter was asleep and then, with infinite pains and caution, I crawled across his log-like length and breathed a sigh of relief when I found myself in the aisle. The ladder wasn’t there but I knew that if I got a toe-hold on the edge of Peter’s berth I could draw myself up, so I began, but the beginning was the end. Peter must have draped one arm over the edge, for when I put my weight on the foot which was on his
berth, I found I was standing on something which was soft at first, and then hard and animated.
“My Godfrey!” yelled Peter, sitting up with a jerk. Then his head hit the top of the berth an awful wallop and he fell back again, but not before he’d got a strangle hold on my ankle.
“Get off my biceps,” he howled.
“Leggo my ankle,” I bellowed.
And then we both obeyed at once with the result that I found myself sitting in the aisle with Peter’s purple visage glaring at me between the nice green folds of his canopy.
"Get in here quickl” he said, in an ominously low voice, and I got.
We didn’t discuss it, only when I finally did get to sleep it was with Peter’s arm across my neck, and when I told him he was strangling me he said:
“Lead me not into temptation.”
“Good morning, papa,” I greeted him, when I wakened next morning, but Peter merely gave me a nasty look before he got in his vocal exercise.
“Now,” he said, remembering the night’s excitement, “I’ve only this to say to you. One more mess like last night’s and home you go. That’s final.”
“You’ve got a nerve—” I began.
“ ’Snuff,” he said. “There aren’t any extenuating circumstances, so don’t plead them. Get dressed and we’ll eat, and for sanity’s sake put on your own drygoods and leave other folks’ alone. See?”
PETER and I didn’t get back to our normal affectionate terms until we reached Lake Louise. I was enchanted with everything, from the air to the “rollicking bedstead” as we were told someone had facetiously christened the gasolene train which bore us up the steep incline road from the station proper to the Chateau. We rounded a shoulder of mountain, suddenly, and there, in all the marble-like brilliance of its white beauty lay the Chateau, Lake Louise.
“It looks too beautiful for any but lovely things to happen here, doesn’t it, Peter?” I whispered nestling closer to him.
“Yes, but you never can tell,” he said gloomily.
We were assigned our rooms which looked right out on the emerald beauty of the Lake with its perfect reflections of the surrounding mountains jutting out into its placid centre, and with the breath-taking beauty of the
Victoria Glacier gleaming at its most d'stant shore.
“Peter, isn’t nature wonderful?” I breathed.
“It sure is,” he agreed. “When do we eat?”
“You make me sick,” I said. “How can our souls commune when your thoughts are all on the baser things?”
“I always heard that the food here was great,” he said.
Well, we compromised on having it served in our room where I could eat and watch the lake at the same time, and not worry about whether I always found my mouth first shot, if the view took my mind from my food.
“I’m going to have a bath and get into my pajamas while we’re waiting,” I said. “It’ll take some time to get your order ready.”
Accordingly I retired, bathed, and had just donned a darling pair of black crepe de chine pajamas embroidered in mauve and yellow, when there came a tap at the door, and Peter opened it for the waiter to wheel in a wellladen dinner cart. I watched through a tiny crack and saw the waiter take the top off Peter’s entree dish to see that it was hot; lift the cover from the planked steak; count the olives; see that the tea was hot, and perform about five other little duties. All the time Peter stood and sniffed and beamed, the point of the nicety of service going over his head like a sparrow over an anthill.
I couldn’t very well yell “Tip him, you boob!” from the bathroom, so after a long sigh the waiter departed, and I popped out. Peter was standing with his back to me, and just as I reached the table—or almost reached it— the door opened and the waiter— hope still bring—re-appeared.
T DIDN’T have time to speak, -*■ nor to get back to shelter, so I just took a high dive under the table—and went so fast that my head came out the other end between the waiter’s feet, knocking his ankle as I shot past and causing him to lose his balance. At the same moment I veered a bit and hit the leg of the dinnercart and the waiter who had grabbed it to save himself, felt it going and uttered a wild yell as he fell.
“W-w-what th—” stuttered Peter.
But at that moment the dinner-cart which had withstood the fray so far went over with a smash and clatter of crockery, and I decided it was time for me to go.
“I’ll be everlastingly—” I heard Peter saying, but I didn’t wait for the denouement. I did a leap-frog effect over the waiter, and then made for the bathroom on my hands and knees, and when I got there I locked me in.
I heard language and lots of it, then heavy breathing and a sound as of the gathering together of many fragments. After that came the creaking of wheels and the shutting of the door.
“Come out,” said Peter.
“I won’t,” I said. “At least not until you forgive me.”
“ We’ve only taken this room for a week,” he reminded me. “Come out here, Ruth!”
“I think I’m going to have screaming hysterics," I informed him. Then I did a couple of quavering gurgles and began to sob.
“My sad aunt! Let me keep my sanity!” raved Peter. “Open that door and come out. 1 won't touch you. I wouldn’t trust myself to.”
So, I came out.
“Now just what—?” he inquired.
“You dizzy dub, why didn’t you tip him?" I asked.
“You did it better than I could have.” said Peter. “What has that to do with it?”
“Everything,” I informed him. "That's what he was waiting for, and that’s what he came back for, and I had to go under the table so he wouldn't see me and I went too far.”
“You always do,” he said stiffly. "What I can't see—”
“Me, too,” I said. "Not until I get this mayonnaise out of my eyes. Did he see me?”
“He didn't mention it,” said Peter.
“Then we won’t have to pay for the crockery,” I enthused. "You telephone down to the service diningroom and give someone fits for what happened, while I scrape me off, and they'll apologize instead of billing us for the damage. Beat 'em to it, buddy.” And Peter, a speed artist when his pocket is in danger, obeyed, and the result was as forecast.
NEXT day we decided to go riding. Everyone does whether they can or not. I wasn't even sure which was the motive end of a horse, but Peter assured me it
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would be all right once I was on. Of course, there was a row when Peter found out about his breeks being left home. At least there was a row when I confessed what I’d done, but then Peter discovered that the pair left behind were old ones he had stuck in for me to wear as I haven’t any, and lie said it served me right and I’d have to stay home. 1 didn’t though, but 1 wish now that I had.
It was after breakfast that we met a nice English couple, and they suggested the ride to the Lake in the Clouds.
“It sounds too much like high life for me,” I said gayly. ‘‘The rest of you go on and I’ll stay here and read. Anyway, I haven’t any riding togs.”
“Tootles, you could loan Mrs. Ronald your golf breeks—they’d do in an emergency, wouldn’t they?” asked the nice chap whom I had mentally christened His Grace.
“There isn’t going to be any emergency,” I assured them.
“Come on, Ruth. They’re only packponies,” said Peter.
“Well, they’d pack a heap of trouble when they packed me,” I said.
“Yes, but they won’t realize it until it’s too late,” was Peter’s comeback. “They aren’t frisky a bit, Ruth. They’re as safe as a kiddy car, and as unexciting.”
Which was where my husband forsook the truth. It was one of the most exciting experiences I ever had. Tootles loaned me her breeks and I sure gave the natives a laugh when I came down in them. Tootles is just a couple of shavings shorter than Peter, and you know it takes a lot of stretching for me to be able to clip him on the ear when it is needful. I repeat, I was worth a full page spread in the Sunday supplement when I got those pants on. The seat reached to my knees and the knee strap caressed my ankles until a safety-pin aided in prohibiting contact at that point. In fact I put in pin-pleats at the knees to keep that section and the seat from being on talking terms. There was room for somebody else in with me, all right, and the fact that I had to wear silk hose and a dainty French hand-made blouse didn’t add to the ensemble. Peter nearly passed out of the picture when I came down, but finally we sobered up, assisted Tootles and His Grace to do the same, and went for the ponies.
IT WAS a surprise to me to see the assortment they had. The one I liked best was dark brown trimmed with black at the head and tail, but he didn’t go nearly as well with my salt and pepper breeks as did a taupe one, with gray brush and ruff, so I chose him.
“I’d like that one if he’s my size,” I told the groom. “I take a misses sixteen or a woman’s thirty-four.”
“W-w-w-w-hat?” he stuttered.
“I say I take a misses sixteen or a woman’s thirty-four,” I repeated gently, “What size is this taupe one?”
“Hey, Rill, I need help,” he hollered. “You don’t rent them in sizes,” hissed Peter. “What’s your bust, measure got to do with it?”
“I didn’t know,” I said. “You see—” “I see more trouble in the offing,” he snapped. “I wish to heck I’d left you home. Don’t let these folks know what a dumdora you are. They’re the pure quill.” And with that he adjusted the saddle and hoisted me up. “All set?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t, seem to he touching where I ought to,” I demurred. “Peter dear, I hate to trouble you but this horse is too wide for me.”
“Too wide—haw,haw, haw!” heroared. “Now whinny, and I’ll think I can ride you!” I said. “I guess that beige shade one will be a better fit for me.” “You stay put and keep quiet,” he warned me. Then he went off and left me, so there was nothing for me to do but obey him.
Suddenly the horse turned its head and looked me in the fat of the eye, and believe me I didn't care for its expression.
“Peter,” I wailed, “I don’t wartt to go riding. This horse glared at me.”
“Shut up and stay on,” he said. “We're starting. Just follow me.”
That, was where my troubles began. My horse didn’t want to follow. He wanted to load, and he did, with me hanging on to the reins for grim death and
feeling as though I were the dice in a wild game.
“You’re all right, dear,” encouraged Peter.
“Oh, am I?” I said, as he rode nearer to me. “You’ll get ground glass in your coffee for this, Peter Ronald.”
“If we go fast—” he began.
“I’m not going fast,” I promised him. But I broke my word. Tootles trotted past us, and that was enough for my mount. It was like yelling “Charge” to an army horse, for that four-legged fury to see anything in front of him but space, and he and Tootles began to race, with me doing a Jack-in-the-box stunt at every stride.
“Post!” yelled Peter.
“Where?” I shrieked looking for something against which my brains would be gashed and jambled.
“Post,” he hollered. “Rise on the first count and down on the second.”
“I’m rising and downing twice to every count now, no matter how fast I count,” I sobbed. Then I didn’t talk any more. Peter was too far behind to hear me, and Tootles too far in front, and besides it took all my strength and attention to keep on that animated surface which was horse. I was lying flat, by this time, one hand tangled in his mane and the other wound several times around the reins. Both feet were out of the stirrups, and endeavoring to tie themselves into a double knot under the beast’s middle, and we were covering a great deal of Alberta in a very short time.
We were gaining on Tootles, and suddenly she reined in—too quickly for me to see how she did it.
“Get the stirrups,” she called.
“How the devil can I?” I yelled, frantically, as I shot past.
T WAS out of breath and my horse hadn’t begun toeven puff yet. Finally, he left the path and took to the brush at a trifle slower gait, and to my everlasting surprise I stayed with him. He began to cross logs, and I could see that the front feet got over, but I had to trust to Providence that he’d navigate the rear ones safely, and he did it. I’ll say that for him.
Twice low-hanging branches raked my face. I lost my hat, and if it hadn’t been that there was a superfluity of pants I’d have lost them too for I heard them rip a couple of times, but there was lots of them to resist the pressure. I’d lost the mane too, by this time, and I never hugged Peter in my life like I hugged that horse’s neck, and all the time I could feel myself slipping forward.
“If I ever get out of this alive,” I thought. Then it happened.
Pegasus plunged down a bank, planted his fore-feet in a mountain stream and lowered his head to drink. I saw land, the under-slung portion of horse, and sky in quick succession as I described a perfect parabola which landed me right side up in the stream about two feet in front of the horse, and I’ll tell the world I had never expected to be ahead of that horse anywhere.
“S/ioo!” I chattered. “Go ’way, bossy.”
He didn’t move, and I’m mighty certain I didn’t. Fie went on drinking and I smiled pretty at him, but he didn’t seem to appreciate it.
Next thing I knew the others were coming down the bank in a form-three arrangement, and on the brink they paused. Tootles and His Grace were pink with restrained mirth. Peter was redfaced and mad, and I think he was a bit scared, too.
“Call off that horse,” I said, my eyes still on the animal. “It’s looking at me.” “Shows darn poor judgment,” said Peter. “Get out of that water, Ruth.”
“Get the horse out first,” I insisted. “Rage before beauty,” and His Grace got hold of Pegasus’ reins and led him out. I tried to stand up, but I couldn’t. I just got half up and there I stuck.
“Come on,” said Peter impatiently. “I can’t,” I said simply. “I’m atrophied and petrified and I think I’m bisected.”
The three of them howled, and there I stood or crouched rather, in that icy mountain stream.
“Come on,” said Peter when he could speak.
“I can’t,” I repeated. “Look the other way all of you and I’ll see what I can do.” With infinite pains I got out of that stream but I couldn’t stand upright.
“Sit down a while, dear,” said Peter tenderly.
“I can’t, Peter,” I said, sadly. “This is all I can do,” and I remained hunched.
They went into gales again, but I couldn’t even join them. It hurt all over even to raise my eye-brows and I shuddered to think about getting home—and then I didn’t even dare shudder again.
“What are we going to do?” asked Peter, who was almost as helpless from mirth as I was from partial paralysis.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’d just as soon die here anyway.”
HOW they got me back on that horse I will pass over, but strange to say I felt more comfortable once I was in the saddle again. My bones seemed to have sort of set in saddle-shape and it was a relief to fall into the mold again. I even smiled, and attempted to post, and after half an hour I was feeling more myself again, although still wet and uncomfortably shaken.
“Are you game to try a little trot?” asked Peter.
“Do what you like with me this time; you’ll never get me nearer a horse than ordering a neck in an ice-cream parlor,” I told him, and Peter proceeded to trot.
So did I. Every movement was agony again, but I smiled and let Pegasus do the rest. My legs ached abominably and I wondered if all the press notices Joan of Arc got for her stunt on the white horse were worth it.
Another thing that worried me before I was too far gone to care, was the fact that that pony would not stay away from the edge of the trail, but insisted on skirting the brink so that there was never more than a few flecks of dust between us and eternity.
“We’ll have to turn out, Pokey,” said Peter. “Here comes a party.”
“If we turn out we’ll turn over,” I said wearily. “Pegasus, do your stuff,” and I shut my eyes and let go the reins.
Peter came and walked his horse beside me, and in another few moments we reached the Chateau, and Heaven won’t belmore welcome to me than it was.
“Now, darling, show what you’re made of,” whispered Peter.
“If I show what I think I’m made of it’ll be^in the nature of a horrible exposure,” I informed him. “I am merely a painful curve above nothing, and I’m not in favor of trying to impress folks with being what I’m not. See?”
“Just one more spurt, for pride’s sake, dear,” he urged.
t “If it wasn’t that I’d sat in ice-water I’d tell you my pride was in the dust,” I said. But I did try to hop off that horse nonchalantly. I got off all right, but I’m not saying how.
“Just sit down there for a moment, dear,” said Peter as I stood there, bowed with grief and other things.
“You simp, I can’t sit down,” I said. And then Peter did what I’ll never forgive him for. He deliberately reached over and shoved me onto the step.
“Owowowowowowo!” I shrieked.
“Shut up, and stay there,” he said, and went off with Pegasus, and I gave them both a nasty look.
Stay there! There wasn’t anything else I could do. If any one had offered me a thousand dollars I couldn’t have risen to take it. That’s the shape I was in.
WOW,” said Peter, joining me, “vou get up and walk up-stairs like a lady, or I’ll crown you.”
“Get ready the tiara then,” I said. “I don’t move until I’m hoisted.”
I didn’t either. Peter had to ease me up, and half way up-stairs I quit cold. My j hat was over one eye, my pants hanging in tatters about my legs, which had an exquisite if unusual curve, and my face was scratched, and covered with straggles of hair.
“You gotta carry me, Peter,” I said. “I j can’t take another step.”
And he finally did it.
“Now^you take a hot bath and you’ll feel fine,” he said.
“How far’d we go?” I asked weakly a little later.
“Eighteen miles all told,” he said. “Maybe it’s all told but I have a hunch the worst is yet to come,” I said, and I was right, too.
_ One funny thing about it though. That night our English friends came to call on me in our room.
“I’ve spoiled your pants,” I told Tootles.
“That’s all right,” said her husband quickly. “They were old ones.”
“That’s nice of Your Grace,” I said.
“I say—how did you find out?” he gasped. “We thought no one knew?”
' “1 knew you right away,” I lied, and while Peter’s eyes did seven come eleven the Duke explained that they were taking a little trip incog.
“If you ever come to England we’ll be most happy to have you come and see us, dontcherknow,” he said, after he and Tootles had asked us to keep their secret.
“We’d love to,” I said. “I’ve always wanted to go riding in Rotten Row.” “Yeh,” said Peter, when they’d gone. “You may be smarter than I think or it may have been an accident, but one thing I’ll promise you. When you waken to-morrow you won’t have any hankering for Rotten Row.”
And Peter was right—for once.