Peter Prescribes Mental Stimulus
NORNIA PHILLIPS MUIR
(L'i c' `i~jiiii f/ic irrepressible Pokey tumbles i/ito trouble, and this time it looks as t/lou~/l s/ic has to stay tlieie. IJoiccvcr, quick wit and a readi', if not too decorous, tongue c' ork iiiarvels so iiietiin Cs.
MORALLY,peter is to blame for the whole thing.It was his ragging at me that started it, and my desire to be a dutiful wife that finished it. "Ruth,''he said to me one morning when I had removed the women's page from the morning paper and started to read it, over my coffee cup. "Ruth, I wish you were keeping in touch with the affairs of the world."
That's no side order, 1' p,' 1 said. Anyway, \vliat tt you cunnpiainn :ihout My knowing that he I r~.i, L~ do~t n a utnt'a ont keep the toast from burning or the t,uues~ro in get ting sn:t~v nses~ I' `~v. ust sho%%. \ `Ut CO1t'5S.i~ I.~-~ i'riln'e. gloated my hsbsit I l'ran.' dtr~vn a rita! Just `a hat portion of the paper do you rt'ao, \l ra. he head-lines ott the ronrt page: the c hd. niat ,hed and j~''atch~J: the -`:al c.: ant ii ann I the o'tnri' -: n'. I atd, nr,'udlv. s~h:tt Iii ,.tated l',oe-. 0 U t~ dSS Ut' an yt hi `n pi'!.::'.'s. fore:~n nt'~v5, nuin:citial (tar' n:rtcs except tnu-d~'r trias .inI accijt'nts aol then you etc ot t.) he abie to ta:k :ntel:i~entl~' to pefl) ple GcehY' I said. "What I'm c":n~ to do tc~-night Is ctve v u a dose of ntei:c.r.e art 1 put you -to bed early. Your innards are out of focus. }`a,~s the jam.''
"And that’s another thing,” he said. “You’re getting too fat and yet you will eat candy and jam and drink milk and eat starchy things. One of these days you’ll be getting . .
"A ticket to Reno where I’ll spend two happy dollars for a permanent wave that will bear me far from your shore." I said. “Drink that coffee, and get out of here. You're going to make my whole day dyspeptic.”
“Honestly, Ruth,” he said gently, “I’d give a lot if you’d read the worth-while news in the papers and keep in touch.”
“How much’d you give?” I asked. “I’ll give you two dollars a week advance in your personal allowance if you’ll devote an hour a day to the paper,” he offered.
“Six hours a week at two dollars—w’hy, you piker, .that’s less than fifty cents an hour,” I said. “Make it .three and I’ll take you.” And he did and I did and that’s how it happened.
Mp WO mornings later when I had w’aded through the -*■ paper conscientiously without finding anything as interesting as the Devere’s divorce, and had turned with relief to the comic strip, I noticed a heading labelled: “Personal” and noted with joy that “If Willie wdll come home to mother, all will be forgiven.”
“Take a tip from me, Willie, and look before you ■leap,” I giggled. “It may be a plant.” And then the other ad. caught my eye.
“Bachelor, refined, British, thirty-two years old, with means, would like to meet young woman, twenty-three to thirty without encumbrances. Object matrimony, if mutually agreed. Box 2774. Confidential.”
“My active ancestors!” I gasped. “Do they have to advertise? I thought there were more women than men. Wonder what sort of a he-male wrould advertise for a
It intrigued me, that ad. I found myself returning to read it several times during the day.
“I wonder how they arrange things and what folks would say and do under the circumstances when they first met?” I thought, and then, just for a lark, I answered it. Peter’d been quiet and inclined to criticism the last week or so, and I needed a bit of fun, so I sent my letter to the box number given. I told the man that I was twrenty-three, short, dark and not too slender, of even temperament and inclined to be lively, but could be serious at need, and I asked for a photograph and
gave the general delivery for my address and Patricia Gray for a name. Then 1 sat back to wait developments.
For three days I waited and then I went down fairly early one morning to the General Post Office, and to my surprise found that I’d have to stand in line. There was quite a crowd waiting, and strange to say, most of those seeking mail were female, and they represented every class and a lot of mass, production.
When I was just five feminines removed from the wicket I got a shock.
“Miss M. White,” I heard a voice say, and when the clerk told her there was nothing for her, the next stepped up and said: “Miss G. Black.”
“Golly!” I thought. “By the law of compensation the next ought to be grey, but I’m hoping for the best.” “Mrs. T. Green,” she said.
“Shades of Sin,” I soliloquized hysterically, “how many colors are there in the rainbow?”
And then—a thin, angular, virtuous looking lady who was young when the polka was a dance instead of a dot sidled up to the wicket and simpered:
“Ith there anything for Miss P. Gray?” “Now I know I’m crazy!” I said, and held my breath while the clerk hesitated a moment. “Oh, Terry,” he called, “look see, is there anything for Miss P. Gray?”
Another head appeared at the wicket, there was a moment’s pause and then out popped a letter. 1 had just time to see that it had no Christian name on it, merely “Miss P. Gray,” before that spiral-curled spinster grabbed it and hugged it to her. Then she held it off for a moment—-and that’s where she made the mistake, for I couldn’t afford to take any chances, and reaching a hand over her shoulder I snitched that letter and turned to go.
“Stop! Thief! Give me my letter,” she yelled. And she clutched me by the shoulder and swung me around with as little effort as I’d man-handle Joan. “Gimme-” she began. “Just hold on a minute before you dislocate my shoulder,” I cried. “I’m Miss--” but she didn’t wait. She yanked me out of line and shook me until my tongue hung out and my rattling teeth bit it.
“Leggo,” I hollered. “You, sheDempsey, whatcha think. . . .” But she was past thinking. “Give me back that letter,” she screamed. “It’s most important.” “That’s it,” I said. “Í certainly
must have an arbitrator.” Just then one of the clerks got between us and held Miss Sampson away from me and I pulled myself to pieces and prepared to tell my story. “Say, what th--” asked the clerk.
“It’s like this,” I panted. “Both of us are Miss P. Gray and she was ahead of me and got the letter and it may be mine and I—”
“What’s your name?” he asked. “R-r-r-ruth Patricia Gray,” I said. “Oh!” he said. And then turning to the outraged spinster he asked what the pitying parents had called
her, only he didn’t put it that w7ay.
“Priscilla,” she simpered.
“I mighta known it’d be that or Prudence,” I said. “But if that letter is yours and is what I think it is, I’m going to take you to the morality officer. Where’s your mama?”
“Now just a minute before the second round starts,” said the clerk. “Will you both be satisfied if I open the letter and just see who it is meant for, and then hand it over to the rightful owner?”
“A Daniel come to judgment,” I said. “Go to it.”
“No, no! I must open it,” said my opponent.
“I--” but just as she
reached for it I grabbed her arm and she whirled on me, the other one outstretched and a gentleman who was passing on the fringe of the crowd drew the most resounding wallop on the ear. . . .
“Hey, what’n--” he hollered, and I began to feel sort of sick as Peter wheeled on us. “What’d you do that for?” he howled.
“I didn’t,” I said faintly; “she did it. She’s crazy and I’m trying to help her.”
“That is yours, madam,” said the clerk, handing me the letter.
“Thanks so much,” I said. “Now come on, dear, and we’ll find a car for you,” I said to Peter’s assaulter. “She’s cookoo and I’m helping the traveler’s aid until they can locate her folks,” I said to Peter. “See you later, dear,” and before he or Priscilla got their breath I had turned and yanked her out of the post office and down the steps.
"I never in all my life--” she cried furiously. “Same here,” I said. “Now just cool dowm and take credit for saving a sister in trouble. That man was my master and I had to say something.”
“Yes, but—my sanity—my letter—my--” “If you let your mouth hang like that the hinge'll break,” I said. “Ta-ta,” and I beat it before Peter came.
“ ’Sno use talking, if fish is brain food, I’ve got to eat a whale,” I soliloquized as I rode home. “I hope Peter swallowed my yarn.”
As a matter of fact he was a bit suspicious, but having all day to work it out I had a flawless story, full of pathos to tell him, and he couldn’t prove anything, so the matter was dropped.
' I 'HE letter had a picture in it, and, sweet mama, he A was Adonis come to life—Greek god and all that sort of thing. Gerald Saxby for a name, and six foot one of him to adore. He liked my letter, he said, and would I send him a photo and make an appointment? There was something vaguely familiar about his face, but I didn’t plumb the mystery then, and although I hesitated to send a photograph I finally decided it wouldn’t jeopardize the fate of the nation, so I sent one I’d had taken just before Peter and I were married, and gave him an appointment for four-o'clock two days later.
“Gosh! I wish 1 hadn't sent it," I soliloquized over the dish pan the night before the meeting, and then something touched my shoulder and scared me.
“Yahyahyah!” I hollered, and wheeled with the dish mop in my hand, soap and all. What makes you go pussyfooting around like that?”
“Pussyfoot nothing; want me to wear a cow-bell?” Peter retorted. “Your nerves are all gone to the bowwows, Ruth.”
“They are not,” I contradicted him tartly. “It’s enough to make anyone yell to be grabbed without a warning. You leave me alone.”
“I’ll bet a top-hat you’re up to something again,” he worried. “Ruth--”
“Go away!” I said coldly, and then I left the room and made sure that Adonis’ picture was still under the paper of my bottom bureau drawer.
“If you know what’s good for you, young feller, you’ll keep yourself to yourself,” I warned him, and put another pillow-case over him before I re-joined Peter.
“Sorry I was cross, dear,” he said. “I don’t believe you’re getting out enough these days. How about a little spree?”
“Lovely, Peter,” I said. “Let me see, you meet me to-morrow afternoon, at four o’clock in Canton’s waiting room,” he said, “and we’ll--” “Oh, no,” I gasped. “What’n—?” he asked.
“N-n-n-not to-morrow, dear,” I said. “You see, I’ve got to go to the missionary meeting.”
“Let the heathen go hang,” he ordered. “I can get off early and-”
“And after the missionary meeting there’s a crowd going to take flowers to the soldiers’ hospital,” I added. “Then I’ll meet you there,” he beamed.
“Oh, I’m not going with them,” I said hastily. “You see—I’ve got to go to Doris’ trousseau tea.”
“I’ll meet you there then and we’ll drive out to—” “If I go,” I said doubtfully, “I had thought of going to see Betty’s new baby and then—”
“See here, Pokey,” he said sternly, “you’ve something on your mind beside your hair. What’re you stalling for? Yesterday you told me Doris’ trousseau tea was next week—”
“Maybe it is,” I said desperately. “I may be mixed.” “And you went to see Betty yesterday, and the minister announced the missionary meeting for Tuesday. You come clean.”
“I had planned all week to have Friday afternoon to myself to just go down and bum around,” I said gently. “Please, Peter, let us postpone our spree until night. I’ll meet you for dinner.”
“Well, why in heck didn’t you say that first?” he inquired. “I hate to link you up with the great liars of the world, but I’ll say this for you—you are ingenious. Six o’clock, then, at Saravon’s. I’ll reserve a table.” “Gosh, Pokey,” I breathed to myself, “that was one close shave!”
Next day I confess I was a bit excited. It seemed so romantic and funny and yet so exciting.
Four o’clock found me in the vicinity of Canton’s waiting room. I was all dolled up and ready for the fun, but I wanted to see Adonis and get a good look at him before he saw me, and finally he arrived. He was all his picture had promised and then some—with waxed mustachios and a cane, spats, gloves and an air of impeccability, whatever that is.
He glanced nervously about and then he spied me and came over. “Miss Gray?” he inquired. “Mr. Saxby?” I countered.
“The same,” he said gravely. “Suppose we go up to the tea room and break bread together.”
“That isn’t binding or anything, is it?” I asked nervously, for I began to wish I hadn’t done it. He seemed so in earnest and he looked too nice to kid.
“Certainly not,” he smiled, and we made our way to the tea room on the top story, which was all set with soft rugs and softer music and shaded lamps and flowers and tender-tinted hangings.
“I almost wish the minister was here now,” he whispered as he took my coat and hung it up.
“There’s one thing sure, you won’t be arrested for loitering,” I said.
“He who hesitates—you know,” he said. “Ya, he who hesitates doesn’t do it. Second thoughts are best. An ounce of prevention and look before you leap and a stitch in time,” I chattered.
“Do you like sewing?” he asked. “Yes, on pastel crepe de chine, but not on outing shirts, underwear or sock mending,” I said. “I’m not very practical.”
“My wife won’t need to be too practical,” he said cautiously. “While I am not a rich man, I am comfortably fixed. You see, the reason I came to insert that ad. was that I”—he broke off and stared across the room steadily.
I swung around, and then, believe me, I did it again. The chap facing us was Bill Loring, and the man with him was—Peter.
“I just came for a minute to-day,” I murmured. “I’ll have to get right back. You see I—I have only until five-thirty and I live ’way out.”
“Are you one of those brave little girls who work for your living?” he asked, leaning across the table.
“You’ve said it, brother,” I answered grimly. “I— I’m not a stenographer or a music teacher or a movie actress, and I don’t sell behind a counter. I’m a sort of a—mother’s helper.”
“You like children?” he said softly, with a killing glance.
“Other people’s, yes,” I said. “I gotta go now.” “I won’t let you go until you tell me where you live, and tell me when I can call,” he decided. “I live at--” and I gave him the address. “But
don’t call. Give me a number I can get you at and I’ll call you. My mistress is most particular,” I said. “She doesn’t like me to have callers.”
The minute I had given the address I could have kicked myself, but it had slipped out and I knew I didn’t dare say it was a mistake.
He wrote it down, gave me a telephone number, and then rose.
“Mind if I go over and speak to that chappie?” he asked. “Please see me out first,” I said, starting for the door.
I saw Bill look up just as I was out of sight behind an arrangement of palms and flowers, and keeping one eye on him, I kept on going. Then I felt an awful blow below the knees, and with a wild whoop and a struggle to save myself I went over backwards. There was a clatter, a mixture of cuss words in French, Italian and English, and then when I tried to get up I couldn’t. My hat was over one eye and the part of me that should have been on the floor was fast in something which, if it had been any more of a fit would have been a convulsion. “Peter!” I hollered. “Peter.”
SOMEONE lifted the hat from my eyes and I saw Adonis, pale and angry-looking, bending over me. “Beat it quick,” I gurgled, still imprisoned. “Take the check and beat it and don’t look back. Quick!”
He did it. I guess he was glad to escape, and just as he disappeared Peter came up, red and inarticulate, and he and the bandmaster or orchestra leader or whatever he was, aided me to get free of that darn drum I’d fallen into.
You’ve heard the expression as tight as a drum? Well, it isn’t any exaggeration. The only thing I know that’s a tighter fit is Peter’s hand around my wrist, and the two experiences dove-tailed, if you get me.
“My sad aunt! Is this the way you rest your nerves?” he gritted as he and the other man tugged, first at me and then at the drum.
“Shut up and get that appendage offa me,” I said. “Can’t you take me somewhere private?”
“Sure, if you want to walk across the tea room with that thing fast to you,” said Peter. “How in heaven s name--”
“Shut up, and divorce me and this drum,” I said furiously, and then he pulled me, and the orchestra leader pulled the drum, and there was a sound of revelry and we parted company.
“That parting was a wrench,” I giggled, discovering that my skirt was intact and putting my hat on straight “You see, dear, I thought I recognized the back of your head and I stopped and then I guess I took a step backwards and—then you know the rest.”
“Yes, you always manage to ring me in on the grand finales,” he hissed. “You thank the orchestra leader and come on.”
“What do I thank him for? It was his rail tripped me,” I said. “If you’re grateful, you do it,” and I walked out. They held me up at the wicket, though, because I’d no check and we had to stand there while I told them what Continued on page 1+5 )I’d had i#ind then they sent for the ■waitress to verify it and I had to slip ’her a dollar bill and give her the wink not to give, me away, and Peter was mad again at being in the “Public Eye.”
Peter Prescribes Mental Stimulus
Continued from page 27
“You know, dear, you’ll be old before ;your time if you worry like this about every little thing that happens,” I said to Peter as we made our way down the • elevator.
“And you’ll, be dead before yours if you don’t grow up and live a normal ’life,” he retorted. “You—the mother
of two children, comporting yourself ’ like that!”
“What do you mean, ‘comport’?” I asked, and Peter threw up his hands and supplicated heaven for patience.
“Anyway, I’didn’t lose my temper,” I said brightly, “and--”
“You darn ■ near lost your clothes, I.that’s what .scared,, me,” said Peter. “Every time I go out with you either I’m scared blue something will happen, or ; else I’m,r.ed,with,e.ip-b^rr.a^sment because i;it Iras:”
“His colors were true, red, white then blue,” I giggled. “Well, it’s over for to-night, anyway, dear.”
But for once I was too much of an optimist. It wasn’t over. It was just the curtain raiser that Caton’s patrons had seen. The real drama almost smacked of tragedy.
“Where are you taking me after dinner, dear?” I asked my husband, when the soup had soothed him.
“Nowhere. We’re going home,” he said. “Aw, Pop, you promised---!”
“You put your vocal apparatus into low or you’ll go home on a stretcher,” he growled, as someone at the next table looked our way.
“I’ve got to see Bill Loring,” said Peter. “A matter came up late this afternoon, and it’s got to be settled pronto and Bill had left the office. I’ll take you to a show another night.”
“All right,” I said, resignedly, rising to let Peter put my cloak around me, and then I got a shock.
Four tables away from us, staring and glaring at me, wasGerald Saxby. For a moment 1 was transfixed, and then I bowed to him and we started out.
“Who’s that guy staring at you?” asked Peter ominously.
"That oh, that’s Dr. Tomlinson—he was houseman at the hospital when the Hits came,” 1 said, and 1 smiled at him brightly.
“1 don’t seem to remember him,” said Peter, and he concentrated—naturally without results—until we found Brutus, and then he put me in and started for home and trouble.
1 was thankful that Peter hadn’t seen what 1 did—that Saxby, or Dr. Tomlinson have it your own way— had risen and followed us out, had climbed into a taxi and was pursuing us in a leisurely way.
“Oh, gosh, don’t let anything more happen to-night,” I prayed, but I guess it was coming to me for the lies I had told.
WE REACHED home, and I saw when we got out that the taxi had stopped at the corner, and that the chauffeur and the passenger were in conversation.
“Don’t bother to come in, dear,” I said to Peter. “Go on and see Bill and when you come home I want to have a little talk with you,” for Ed made up my mind to confess the whole thing to Peter before he had a chance to find it out.
I wish now I’d done it right then, but Peter started Brutus again and was off before I could recall him, and I hadn’t had more than time to take off my hat and powder my nose before the bell rang.
“Enter, Fate,” I giggled, and opened the door.
“I told you not to call without telephoning,” I reproved him gently.
“I had to come,” he said doggedly. “I’ve got a few things to ask you, Miss Gray, and then I’ve a confession to make. Who was that man you were dining with?” “Don’t you think you are taking a lot for granted, Mr. Saxby?” I asked.
“Maybe, but I want to know. Was that Peter Ronald?”
“Y-y-y-es,” I gasped. “I thought so,” he said grimly. “Miss Gray—Patricia, did you know he is a married man and has children?”
“I ought to,” I giggled. “You see— here’s where I work.”
“Here!” he exclaimed. “Why, of course, this is the address you gave rne. But— my dear young lady, don’t you know it is not the thing for you to dine in a public place with your employer, a married man? What would his wife say?”
“She knew,” I explained. “It’s like this. I’m an old friend of theirs but I lost my money and had to do something and they took me in and treat me like one of the family, and to-night Mrs. Ronald was going to be out and she suggested that Mr. Ronald take me out to dinner instead of my having to get it here. Thought the change would brighten me up,” I concluded softly.
“W-ell, in that case,” he conceded. “And now I want to—”
Out in front there was the sound of a car stopping and I heard Peter’s voice and some others.
“Great snakes, he’s here now!” I cried. “Yrou’d better get out of sight quick.” “But--”
“blurry—I’ll explain later,” I cried. “Quick—you can’t get out of here now— get under this,” and I lifted the valance which hung about our Chesterfield sofa, and before he knew what had happened he was under it and I was sitting down on it with a book.
GO RIGHT in,” said Peter. “You’ll find her there. I’m sure, Mrs. Maxten she’ll be delighted to see you.”
“Liar,”I said. “Not a sound below there—on your life,” and then I rose and gave gracious greeting to our pastor and his wife, whom Peter ushered in.
“Bill was out and I picked Mr. and Mrs. Maxten up at the corner; they were on their way to call,” he beamed. “Mrs. Maxten, sit on the Chesterfield. It isn’t too low to be comfortable. I detest these things you have to drop into. Now with this we have the same effect but it is in reality an old fashioned sofa and we had square ends put on it, and this deep valance effect - but you see it is not built in solid, and consequently not so warm as a Chesterfield. Let me show you—”
“Oh, you missed your vocation, you ought to have been a salesman,” I said, pushing him away from danger. “Go and
ask Pansy to make us some coffee, will you?” Peter scowled and left the room.
“Mr. Ronald was just telling us of your work with the Journeyer’s Joy Society,” beamed Mr. Maxten, “and it is apropos of work like that we came to see you.”
“Yes, you see we have found out that many young girls are led astray by means of fraudulent ads. which are inserted in the papers asking for young ladies to communicate with box numbers—the object of the young man who inserts the ad. being given as matrimony, but—alas, all too often it is not the case.”
“How dreadful!” I murmured. “Yes—now what we wanted to find out from Mr. Ronald was whether there is any legal penalty attached to putting an ad. of that type in the papers, and if so— what.”
“We have been trying to catch one of these men,” said Mrs. Maxten. “In fact four of our members have been answering these ads. to try and see just what procedure the young men follow. One of our workers was interrupted in her good work this morning and she fears that the postal authorities are working in collusion with the men. She had a letter taken from her by a brazen hussy and the postal clerk aided in the outrage. We are going to take the matter up with the authorities.”
“Dear, dear, I hope you won’t-—be disappointed,” I added, and then as I detected a movement under the sofa I bounced on it hard, and at the same moment Peter returned, with Pansy and the coffee in his wake.
“I’d made some for Mr. Ronald ma’am, so it was just ready,” stated Pansy as she wheeled the tea-waggon toward me.
The coffee was poured, the cake passed, and everything serene when disaster overtook us—disaster once more in the shape of Deuce-Spot, who came nosing for crumbs.
“Please take that dog out,” I said to Peter nervously.
“He’s all right,” said he, and Mrs. Maxten played with dynamite when she said ‘nice dog’ and invited him to her side.
“I’m sure I’ve made some crumbs, doggie,” she said. “Look there,” and she dropped a raisin which hit my foot and bounced under the valance.
THEN it happened. Deuce disappeared and simultaneous with his disappearance came a deepthroated growl, and muffled howl, and then a chorus of cuss words and snarls.
“Migawd let me outohere,” came a roar from beneath us, and just as Deuce's rear appeared Mrs. Maxten screamed and jumped and the steaming coffee hit Deuce who screeched and returned to the attack with added venom.
“Holy Harp-hitting Henery!” yelled Peter, and for a few minutes that room was the most awful mess of men, minister and mastiff that I ever saw, with Mrs. Maxten proriding music fitting to the occasion.
“Pansy!” I hollered. “Help me get Deuce,”* and Pansy and I went into the fray and emerged triumphant with Deuce held by collar and tail and still snarling. Together we dragged him to the cellar door, opened it and assisted him downward and then returned to the living room.
“Hobo!” said Peter, as we entered, “Now rhen, Dr. Tomlinson, will you kindly tell me what you are doing under my sofa?”
“Search him, Peter, and see if he’s got anything already?” I cried, giving Saxby a vacant stare.
“I—” he began. “No wonder they missed things at the hospital,” I said. “Ruth, there is something funny about this,” said Peter, “’n I wantsa know-—” “Then consult an encyclopaedia,” I
said. “Just who are you?” asked Peter of Adonis. “I prefer not to say,” was the answer. “Oh, do you?” said Feter. “What were you doing here?”
“I came to call on Miss Gray,” he said, stubbornly. “She has done me the honor to consider my suit."
“More thoughtful than I am,” gibed Peter. “There’s no Miss Gray here.”
“Now I understand,” 1 .said. “You took me for Miss Gray, didn't you?" I asked Saxby, whose eyes rolled fatuously before he nodded.
“I might have known it,” I said, turning Continued on page 48 Continued from page 46 to our guests. “Just a silly mistake. Patricia Gray and I are as like as two peas in a pod—”
"Nuts in a shell,” corrected Peter. “—and this chap got the addresses mixed and seeing me thought I was
“And immediately crawled under the Chesterfield to propose to you in a romantic posture,” finished Peter. “Now I’ll tell one. you Rampant Romeo!” and he took a step toward my fiance.
“Peter, pause and consider,” I cried. “My aim at this range don’t need considering,” said Peter, feelinghis biceps.
“Just what is your relation to this young lady, may 1 ask?” cheeped Adonis.
“¡She’s only my wife—” grieved Peter, “—wish she was my daughter just for a few minutes.”
“You’ve played me false,” wailed Saxby. “Oh, Y’Agony,” I giggled.
“Ruth, have you seen this chap before?” asked Peter.
“Yes,” I said. “Is he Dr. Tomlinson?” “No.” “Who is he?” “Patricia calls him Gerry,” I said.
“I—you—this—” spluttered Gerry and from his pocket he drew the photograph I had sent, and before I could grab it Peter did.
“It’s darn queer that Patricia should borrow your dress to have her picture taken in,” he mused. “Pokey—you come across. Sit down everyone. This oughtta be good.”
“T I TELL,” 1 stalled, wondering what to VV tell now. And then all of a sudden an awful row broke out in front of the house. There were shouts, the sound of running feet, another shout and then a shot—another, and a third.
“Stop, I tell you or I’ll shoot again,” came a voice.
“My sad Aunt!” shrieked Peter. “If this ain’t my busy day!”
“Come on,” I yelled, and led the procession out to the verandah, just as a policeman marched two men up on it.
“Bringthem i n if you like,” said Peterin resignation. “If this is part of your show you’ll sleep with the pup to-night,” he hissed as he passed me.
“Anything for a change,” I said flippantly, and then I caught my breath, for one of the prisoners was—Bill Loring.
“I saw them skulking in your drive, sir,” said the sergeant, “and while I was watching them from shelter this one,” pointing to the stranger—“gave this guy, (Bill) a leg up, and he was peeking in the window.”
“I—” chirruped Bob. “ Y ou stay quiet ’till I’m through,” said the officer. “When I called them to put up their hands and surrender, they ran, and I had to fire into the air to get them, and then they said it was a joke.”
“Sure—” said Bill, and Adonis nodded vociferously.
“And are you in it, tpo?” asked Peter of Adonis. “Then I know who’s going to laugh last—and it ain’t going to be you.” “Peter, dear—” I began.
“Nor you neither,’’’ he said, ungrammatically.
“Mrs. Maxten, I’m so sorry you and the I dear Doctor—” began Peter.
“Oh, cut out the brotherly love and clear up this mess,” I said. “I wanta be vindicated.”
“Bill, can you explain this?” asked Peter. “Yes, but—” “If you know them, sir . . .’’said the officer.
“I know them; I’ll be responsible,” said Peter, and as I turned to Bill again I suddenly recognized the face of the chappie with him, and then I knew why Adonis’ face was familiar.
The police officer left, but the Maxtens stayed.
“Now, Bill,” said Peter, suggestively. “I’m sorry, old man, I don’t get it all j yet,” said Bill, “but these two fellows are in the post office—”
“Thought your mug was familiar,” said Peter, rudely, to Adonis.
“And they happened to know about a I fellow who was home from the Southern I Islands for a while and didn’t know anyone and advertised for a girl—object matrimony—and found a peach through J the ad. and married her and is most happy.”
Peter gave me a dirty look at this point. ¡ “I said I didn’t think any girl who was I worth anything would answer an ad. of that type and they took me up on it and we laid a little bet—” “Gambling!” I exclaimed in horror.
“And there were twelve answers and the terms of the bet made it so that I had to see the applicant. I’m just giving you the meat of the story.”
“It’s well hung,” stated Peter. “Terry here raved about one of the girls who answered, a Miss Gray, and I was to go to Caton’s this afternoon to see him when he met her. That’s why I took you there for that business chat, Peter—■ and when I saw him with Ruth.’’
“Ruth,” he hollered. “My wife! My Godfrey!”
“That’s right, have cotton kittens with velvet tails,” I said. “Remember I’ve got a story, too.”
“Well, when I saw it was Ruth I knew there was a nigger in the fence somewhere, and I didn’t tell him anything. Then after dinner, about three quarters of an hour ago, I got a phone call telling me to come to this address with George and let him see for himself what a peach she was, so we came and then the cop nabbed us, and that’s all there is to it.”
“Just the same, Peter, the name of Patricia Grayis familiar to me,” he added.
“Now, Ruth,” said Peter, “do your stuff.”
“We’ve both drawn blanks,” I said sweetly. “I did answer this gentleman’s au, Peter. I thought it was a bonafide one and—•”
“But my soul! Why bigamy?” howled Peter.
“and—” I continued, “I had joined the S.P.P.P.H. and among other matters relating to the safety of young girls we took up the matter of these ads. which are put in the personal columns of our papers— particularly the advertisements which ask for appointments and letters, and so on, with matrimony as the given reason.
“The other girls had been doing courtwork and patrol-duty, and I was given this to do, as I was small—and—young looking.”
“So sweetly innocent,” breathed Mrs. Maxten.
“This was the first application I answered, and 1 didn’t dare give my right name, Peter, for your sake, and I thought there was something queer about it, and that for the sake of some sweet young girl I’d see it through. My meeting you in the post office was so unexpected, and I had to fabricate something—but I’m sure I’ll be forgiven for that—” and I looked
sadly toward Dr. Maxten, who smiled and [ nodded at me.
“Then to-night this man followed us I from the hotel. I wanted to tell you about it, but you are so afraid that I will come to some harm that I knew you would never let me go on with it, and my heart was in the work and so—so I deceived you and fibbed, and—now all my work and trouble were for nothing!” I sobbed, and I managed to burst into tears.
“Dear little woman,” said Dr. Maxten, rising to go, “your work will be blessed. You must talk this over with Mrs. Maxten and come in with her workers for the same cause.”
“Yes, indeed,” she said, and a moment later they were gone.
NOW, Bill, you and your fun-loving little friends better beat it before I change my mind and decide to hand you over or beat you up or something,” said Peter. “You may have thought it was funny and a good point to prove—but I can’t see it, and I doubt if the postmaster-general would, either,” he said insinuatingly to the others,as they filed out.
“Now, then,” said Peter, turning to me, “I’m about fed up! What the Sam Hill made you do a fool thing like that? You might have got into all kinds of trouble.” “I’d never have thought of it, if it hadn’t been for you,” I said.
“Me?” howled Peter. “How’d you get that way?”
“Well, dear,” I said, “it was you who begged me to read the paper and learn what was going on in the world.”
“Jumping Jehoshophat!” he groaned, “hev I gotta take the blame for this?” “Only your fair share, dear,” I said. “Anyway, why raise a rash over it now? You suggested it. I did it. Nothing’s happened except to lift us in the esteem of the pastor and his wife. Her society—” “You’re not going to join it,” stated Peter, belligerently.
“No—” I said, thoughtfully. “Complications might set in. You see it was I who took the letter from one of the Happy Helpers this morning at the post office—the one who hit you.”
“Did you clean up on her?” he asked, and I nodded.
“Then you’re forgiven,” he said. “Say, what’s the name of your society, Ruth?” “The Society for the Protection of Perverted Pin-Heads,” I giggled.
And Peter gave me a comprehensive look before he put cut the lights and let Deuce-Spot out of the cellar.