Pokey and Her Flapper-Masher Bob
NORMA PHILLIPS MUIR
Peter's cunning little bride held off for a long time, but finally succumbed to the lure of the bob, but then—??!
"PETER, dear, you positively must see Betty.”
“Whaffor?” asked my lord and master, “what’s Betty done? Had her skin lifted, her eyebrows plucked or taken a henna dip?”
“She’s had her hair bobbed and, honestly, she looks sixteen. You know how averse Bob was to her having it done—well, he says, it never looked as well and he won’t hear of her letting it grow. Think •of that!”
“I’d rather not,” stated Peter coldly. “Let me tell you right now that if Betty looks sixteen Bob’s in danger of being arrested for cradle snatching.”
“You exaggerate so foolishly, dear! Betty says she never has a moment’s worry about her hair now; that •her head’s so cool and light all the time.”
“She didn’t need to have her hair cut to achieve that,” said Peter, and regarding me sternly for a few moments, he said:
•“For the past month, Ruth, you have been giving a fair imitation of singing the ¡song without words. My ¡intuition told me what the drift was on the first occasion. But I have hoped that, without forcing the issue, you would realize my feelings. I do not approve of bobbed hair for married women; especially for the mothers of children.”
“What else would women be mothers of?” I asked brightly.
“As I was saying,” continued Peter, “I cannot honestly approve of this fad of maturity aping youth. I—”
“You mean that one cannot be mature and youthful at the same time?”
“Hardly that,” said Peter. “What I mean is that one should dress according to one’s responsibilities.”
“Well,” I argued, “thinning hair is a sign of too much responsibility; long hair a sign of mental repose and nerve health. I’ve got long hair and large responsibilities. I’m a human contradiction of the Ronald theory!”
“What I am trying to put across,” said Peter, with dangerous calm, “is my belief that long hair for a woman is more to be admired than—”
“Than it is in a man.” I cried. “I think so too, but Peter—”
“Ruth, if you don’t let me finish what I am trying to say—”
“Well, why don’t you say it?” I asked. “What is it you’re trying to say buddy?”
“Merely that I forbid you to have your hair bobbed,” announced Peter.
I sighed: “Peter, dear, why can’t I have my hair cut?” “My sad aunt,” he groaned, “I imagined I’d told you.” “You haven’t given me a single reason,” I stated, triumphantly. “All you’ve given me are half baked theories propounded by old maids and ladylike men.” “I don’t like it,” said Peter, “and that’s all the reason you’ll get.”
I WAS disappointed to find Peter so definitely against my bobbing my hair, but as I have a healthy regard for his temper I had no intention of going against him in the matter. In fact, I never would have fallen from grace if it had not been for a French milliner.
I had gone down town to buy a hat to go with the Patou model suit which I hadn’t bought out of the proceeds of my rummage sale, but which I nevertheless owned. Every hat I tried on either perched nimbly on top of my head, like a dicky bird about to take wing, or slumped down over my noble brow so that the mere effort of trying to keep from bumping into people gave me the appearance of playing peek with every person I met.
“Haven’t you any hats for ladies?” I asked, as she perched another ten-year model atop my head.
“You see, madam, it is hard to fit you the way you wear your hair,” suggested the salesgirl.
“What’s the matter with the way I wear my hair?”
“Well, most of the hats are made for bobbed hair this year—that is, most of the hats suitable for a young matron.”
“Which means that unless I bob my hair I’ve got to wear a bonnet or buy a grandmother’s hat?”.
“Well, scarcely that, but—now how about this model?” she inquired as she hooked a religious looking brown straw over my bob at the back and with infinite patience forced it down over my brow.
“Have you ever thought of using a can opener or a shoe horn?” I said, as she finally got it on. I removed the hat and several hair pins, to say nothing of hair with it.
“If you have any small hats in mauve that you can get on without giving me gas, I’ll try them,” I stated, “but if you haven’t I’ll have one made to order or else I’ll just plan to wear a halo!”
The girl departed to return with a dream of a hat. It was a small cloche of mauve corded silk; across the front was a flat plaque of mauve and purple and wisteria flowers with bronze and silver leaves. It was positively made to go with my suit, but it came as near being a fit as was the apple which William Tell’s son wore so jauntily on top his cranium.
“A pity, madam—” began the girl.
*‘Some fool said that pity was akin to love,” I said bitterly. “Whose baby was that made for?”
“It was created for a bobbed head,” said the girl.
“How long have you been trying to fit a hat on me?” I asked her.
“Nearly two hours, madam,” she said, consulting her watch.
“And in all that time you’ve not been able to find one really becoming hat to fit me, now have you?” I asked.
“That’s all right,” I said, briskly, “put that mauve confection in a drawer and maybe when I come back it’ll fit me.” I smiled and left the department.
“After all, my. hair’s my own,” I soliloquized. “If Peter was up against what I am he’d do the same thing. Anyway, the law’s behind me. A New York judge said a woman’s hair was her own and she could bob it if she wished to, and I sure do.”
T KNEW better than to hang around thinking about it. It was too much like having a tooth pulled. While the urge was strong I rushed to the hair dressing department.
“I want to have my hair cut off,” I said.
“Just get in this high chair!”
The high chair made me feel sort of insignificant to start with, but I’m here to say that the start was only the beginning.
I hung up my hat and coat and climbed into the barber’s chair and at sight of the long face which stared back at me from the mirror I managed to crack a dismal sort of smile.
“What sort of bob do you wish, madam?” he asked, flourishing the shears as I removed my hair pins.
“What kinds have you?” I asked.
“Dutch, shingle, King Tut, pine-apple—”
“Sounds more like a fruit sundae than a tonsorial operation,” I smiled feebly. “Got any pictures of ’em?”
He produced a book wherein graceful young gazelles showed the back, front and both sides of the various bobs. Each girl was an absolutely perfect type.
“Why don’t they show a few cross-eyed ones with straight hair, so we might hope to shine by comparison,” I muttered as I designated the cut I wanted. “Don’t cut it in layers, and don’t give me a point in the back of my neck. Just cut my hair to make me look as near like this as possible, and do it quick,” I pleaded.
He took a brush in one hand and two combs in the other and proceeded.
“I’ll just cut the long ends first, so don’t judge the general effect by what you see at first,” he said soothingly.
I took one horrified look and covered my eyes. My stomach rose into my throat, stuck there, turned over twice and slithered sickeningly.
“Don’t do it—” I wailed—“don't cut any more until I have time to think. Is there anything you could do now— anything to save it?”
“Don’t worry,” he said, “just wait until I’m finished.”
“My head’s too small,” I wailed. “I should have thought of that. My head’s small and my hair’s fine. My head’s going to look like a peanut in a park.”
“Don’t you fret,” he said, “you won’t look so bad. Lots of freaks walk out of here and you’ll never be noticed.”
“You go on with your work and don’t get personal,” I sniffed. “Oh, if I was five minutes younger I’d have all my hair!”
“You’ll fall in love with your own reflection when I’ve done with you,” he re-assured. “Suppose you don't look again until I tell you.”
“I’m going to look at the side you haven’t cut as long as it’s there to look at,” I stated coldly, and then 1 wailed again as his scissors clicked and he laid another long lock on the table.
“Don’t they ever give an anaesthetic for this operation?"
“No, ma’am,” he said, snipping steadily, “folks don't suffer any just having their hair cut.”
“That’s all you know about it,” I said. “I’m in agony.
I wish I’d brought somebody with me to take my mind off myself,”
“That shouldn’t be hard, miss,” he said, kindly! “you haven’t anything to worry about.”
“Do you mean my mind or my hair,” I questioned icily.
“I think maybe I’d get on better if we didn’t try to talk,” he suggested calmly.
“I thought of that first, but I hated to say it,” I remarked, and after that he clipped in silence, while I recognized more facial defects than I ever thought I had. The shape of my face was all wrong. My ears never seemed to me to be so prominent, nor were my cheeks so full and my brow so bulgy. At the risk of losing the end of an ear I twisted my head sideways, and, as I feared, my chin was of the receding type.
“I’m a mess,” I muttered, “It’s a good thing for me that Peter never saw me like this before we were married. Tell me the truth,” I addressed the tonsorial surgeon, “do you have many who look as bad at this stage as I do?”
“Not many,” he admitted, “but the curling’ll make quite a difference.”
“It’ll need to. If I was one of a batch of kittens I’d be the first one chosen to drown. What’re you going to do now?”
“Shave your neck,” he announced.
“Oh no, you’re not. I know I look like Balaam’s storied steed, but I refuse to qualify for the porker class too! If you shave my neck I’ll have bristles on more than my temper.”
“Suppose I use the clippers,” he suggested.
“Suppose you don’t,” I countered. “I like your little tools, but if you’re tired of the scissors, play with the curling tongs a while.”
T DIDN’T feel much better when he began to curl it. I’d *■ had a vision of one of those lovely marcel finishes the movie stars have. He said my hair was so thin he’d have to curl it up and only marcel the top.
“Won’t I look sort of mixed,” I asked. “Don’t you think you’d better either marcel all of it or none?”
“If you’d just leave it to me,” he said.
“I won’t mention hair in my will,” I said, “if you want it you can have it as a free gift now, I’m not going to make a legacy of my hair.”
“I don’t mean your hair,” he said, “I mean the method of curling it.”
“All right,” I said. “I can’t look worse than I do.”
He took the longest lock of hair—the one which is brushed across my noble brow caught it with a clipper, and screwed it up in a tight little nob on top of my head—so tight that my eyebrows ran into a point.
“Loosen the guy rope a little,” I cried.
“A train wreck couldn’t change me more than you have, but I still cling to the old-fashioned idea of having my eyebrows horizonally above my eyes. My husband, too, is conservative.”
He murmured something about the end of a perfect day and let my hair out a couple of notches, whereat my eyebrows formed twos again as nature had intended.
Then he parted my hair into three layers, and got busy with the hot iron.
When he had one side curled, in the three rows of little sausages, I began to snicker.
“I look like a chocolate layer cake with pale pink filling,” I said. “Suppose you comb those out and let me know the worst now?”
“The longer they stay like that, the longer the curl will stay in,'” he protested.
“All right,” I said. “Do I pay by the day or the week?”
“If madam will hold very still,” he warned me, “the very short hairs lie so close to the neck and I don’t want to burn you.”
“I killed a man once for burning me,” I said, solemnly, and then I hollered, for he jumped nervously and let the tongs touch my neck.
“Say, if you can work any faster I wish you would. I’d like to have a good dinner for my husband to-night.”
“Does he know you’re here?” asked the man.
“No,” I admitted.
“Then you’d better have a good dinner for him,” he stated, and after that he worked faster. It wasn’t more than another half hour before he combed out my abbreviated locks and handed me a mirror. If I do say it myself, I was the gilt on the lily! My hair was a soft, curly fluff about my head. Somehow my features seemed to have recovered their pristine passableness so that I smirked at myself in satisfaction.
“I told you so!” he said.
I paid him, put on my coat and without fear, placed my hat on my head. It slumped down so that it rested on the tips of my ears and the bridge of my nose. I tilted it back so that I could see, and it forthwith did a toboggan effect to the back of my neck.
“Did you grease me, by any chance?” I enquired. “I can’t seem to find a permanent perch for my hat.”
I LEFT the hairdressing parlors holding my hat and returned to the millinery department to seek out the girl and the mauve hat.
“Marvellous! Perfect!” breathed the girl. “It was created for Madame.”
“I’ll take it,” I said, discovering with relief that the hat stayed put.
“Fifteen dollars,” she said. “Will you wear it?”
“I wish I could wear twelve dollars and a half’s worth of it,” I mourned, “that’s all I’ve got. You’ll have to send it C.O.D.”
She took the name and address, and I boarded a street car for home. Never have I put in such an eon of time. Every time the car lurched forward my old hat lurched with it. When the car stopped suddenly and I was jolted back, it rose airily and settled down anywhere from the crown of my head to the level of my shoulders.
Finally I ceased endeavoring to look dignified and frankly held my hat in place while I gave myself up to prognostication of Peter’s reception of my hair.
When I got off the street car I noted absently that the conductor was smiling at me in a friendly manner. Thankful for any kindness in view of the uncertainty of what was awaiting me at home, I smiled back at him and hopped nimbly off the car. It was necessary to walk most circumspectly, to avoid having to hang onto my hat. But when I reached home I was so excited that I cast discretion to the breeze, and rushed up the walk. My hat flew off. I pursued it gayly, and ran into the house, yelling for Peter.
I heard his voice in the living room, and I dashed in. With a whoop of unconcern I sent my big hat spinning across the room. To my horror it performed a perfect parabola, and descended neatly upon the bald head of an old man, who sat facing the fireplace.
“God save us,” he ejaculated, rising with my flower adorned headgear atop his polished dome. Then he swung toward me and frowned ferociously, even as he put a timid hand toward his head.
“Ringed, by gosh,” I giggled, and then as I saw Peter’s enraged face I went forward prettily.
“Allow me,” I said, twitching the hat from his head, “and, I beg your pardon.”
“Ruth,” said Peter, “would you please leave us, for' the present.”
“Where is the present?” I asked facetiously, and I winked at the old man who, seemed to be still verging on apoplexy.
Peter said coldly, “I will talk to you later.”
“But are you not going to introduce me to your friend?”
Peter was white. He had chosen to ignore my thatched roof. That I knew boded ill. I decided to force the issue while there was someone to protect me.
“Mr. Elverson, my—sister,” said Peter, stiffly.
He acknowledged the introduction. I thought I noted a twinkle in his eye, but, as he suddenly became aware of my lack of hair, he frowned prodigiously and seated himself again.
“I might say,” began Peter, “that much against her will my sister was forced to have her hair cut. It has been falling out.”
“Just so,” he said, graciously, “and may I ask what caused it to come out?”
“It’s been coming out ever since the babies came,” I stated frankly.
“You’re married?” he exclaimed.
“Sir—” I said.
“Ahem, yes, of course,” he said, “and your husband, what does he think of it.”
I cast down my eyes and shook my head sadly.
“I beg your pardon,” he said, sadly, “you area widow?" “Ruth,” began Peter, “don’t you think you’d better-
“I’m so tired, brother,” I said. “I must rest a few moments.”
The old man leaned over and patted my hand kindly.. “How old are your babies?” he asked.
“Going on two,” stated Peter with vacarious pride.. “Months or years?” asked the man.
“Years,” said Peter.
“Months,” said I, making a face at Peter and raising a suggestive hand to my hair.
“Eh, what?” he said.
“Months,” I repeated, firmly, and at that moment Joan toddled into the room and Pansy Evangeline followed with Jack. I ignored the children.
He was just about to speak when Pansy caught sight of me.
“Hully gee, you’ve had yer hair cut,” she shrilled. “If you ain’t the butterfly’s eyebrows, I’m a dead one. Ain’t she cute, Mr. Ronald?”
“You may go, Pansy,” he said, coldly. “Mummy,” lisped Joan.
“Come to auntie, dear, and we’ll find your mummy,” I said, taking her up while Peter’s eyes rolled fatuously.
“And whose little ones are these?” asked the old man.
“Mine,” said Peter, firmly, and to. corroborate his statement Jack patted his face and said “Daddy.”
“You’ll excuse me,” I said rising, “I must go now to my little ones.”
“R-r-ruth,” stuttered Peter, holding Jack out to me, “t-t-take Jack too.”
The curtains parted and Pansy poked her face in. “Please, Mrs. Ronald, you’re wanted on the ’phone,” she announced, and as I left the room I heard Peter’s agonized voice muttering something about—“brother’s widow.”
When I came back for the children the old man looked admiringly.
“Mrs. Ronald, I hope you will permit an old man to state his admiration for your attitude,” he said. “I have very fixed ideas about certain things, and one of them is that where there are children, mourning should have no place. I rejoice that you are not in black.”
“I wore it the first eighteen months,” I said, smiling sweetly, “but since the babies came—” and then, seeing the dizzy disbelief in his face and doing a hasty bit of mental arithmetic I fled, leaving Peter to explain.
“Well—” he said, as he entered the bedroom after the old man had gone, “you certainly are the deuce for messing things up.”
“My hair, Peter,” I began.
“Your hair is the least of my worries. For a silly flapper it would be becoming— for you, it is merely ridiculous. You mayhave done me out of a wonderful commission by this affair. Do you know who he was?”
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“Some doddering old idiot, like most of your friends,” I said, airily.
“Not so doddering that he hasn’t made half a million dollars,” said Peter. “What under heaven possessed you to have you’re hair cut?”
'T couldn’t get a hat that would fit my hair.”
“Judging from your brain capacity I might have suggested that you try the children’s department or buy a bonnet,” snorted Peter. “I’m thoroughly disgusted. D’you know what Mr. Elverson was here for?”
“You tell it.”
“He was here to discuss with me the advisability of our firm taking over the legal end of his idea—an idea to protect or rather serve the juvenile criminally disposed or thoughtless lawbreakers.”
“Well, I can’t see where I put any crimp in that,” I stated.
“He had just told me that he was unalterably opposed to this present craze for bobbed hair which made married women look and act like flappers, and caused them to attract attention from
young lads who, if the women dressed and acted properly, would not be thinking of anything but pig-tailed school girls.”
NEXT morning when I awoke I could have wept. There wasn’t a vestige of curl left in my hair. It hung around my face as dejectedly as a cat’s fur when caught in a rainstorm.
While Pansy got the breakfast I struggled with the gas tongs and managed to make the front look a little less discouraged.
“It doesn’t curl very tight,” I muttered, as another lock came out of the tongs with an upward tilt to the end—like the beginning of a tearful smile.
“Let me try one, ma’am,” suggested Pansy.
“Not a chance,” I replied blistering the tip of a finger in an effort to protect my neck. “If you happened to burn me my children would be half orphaned by the law. How’s that look now?”
Pansy shook a doleful head, and I knew that I hadn’t improved matters.
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“Will it always look like that?” asked Peter.
“No, dear, it just takes a few days to get used to itself,” I said brightly. "Say, Peter, could you spare me a little money?” “Very little,” he growled. “How much?” “Ten dollars,” I said firmly, and Peter with a groan poneyed up.
“Pansy,” I said, when he had gone, “after to-day I’m going to be a real mother to these children, but for to-day, I’m merely a friend. I’ll bath ’em and dress ’em, and then they are yours for the day. Give them bread and milk and apple sauce or coddled eggs until I come home.” I waited until the new hat came, and congratulated myself that it covered most of the wreck. Then I steered for Seatons and being early I didn’t mind taking off my hat in the waiting room and showing the manager what had been done to me.
“There isn’t anything we can do, madam;” he said, “your hair is the extra fine kind that does not take easily to curling.”
“Do you mean I’ve got to go through life looking like this?” I asked. “I can’t curl it. The man who did it said it’d stay in for two weeks and while I can’t afford a marcel with breakfast every day, I thought one in two weeks wouldn’t be too bad. What can I do?”
“We guarantee our oil wave for four ' months,” he said. “It won’t come out with washing the hair, hot damp weather —or bathing.”
“How much?” I asked.
“Twenty dollars for bobbed heads,” he stated.
“It ought to stay in, for four months at that rate,” I sniffed, “although—after all that isn’t much more than marcelling would be—wait a minute while I count. Do you mind if I use my fingers?”
He smiled deprecatingly, and after a frenzied brain scurrying I figured that twice a month for four months at a dollar and a quarter would be ten dollars.
“Then, too,” I soliloquized, “since I can’t curl it myself I’d have to have it shampooed down town, for I couldn’t come down with it like an Indian’s to have a marcel—so that would be another eight dollars. If it doesn’t have to be curled after it’s washed I could wash it at home and save that eight dollars. I’d just about break even in the end, for—the car fare would be—two tickets eight times— sixteen tickets—about another dollar, not to speak of wear and tear on my nerves, clothes and worry about being burned raw.
“I’m on,” I said to the manager, “how soon can you do me?”
“At once, madam,” he said, leading me from the waiting room to an apartment at the end of a long corridor.
“How long will it take?” I asked him. “Half a day,” he replied.
I gasped, “What do I do all that time?”
I learned soon enough. I was put in another kind of high chair and a bath-robe sized bib almost strangled me. Then my short locks were combed out straight, one by one, about ten hairs to a lock, saturated with oil and wound around and around a bobbin-like cylinder which latter was afterward placed in a cartridge case. The cartridg case was attached to a long wire on a merrry-go-round affair onthe ceiling, and then the lead wire was taughtened sufficiently to lift the cylinder so that it didn’t touch my head.
“I feel like a cross between Bluebeard’s wife and a centipede on its back,”
I said, as I risked my life in an upward glance.
“Any chance of the power being too strong and burning me bald?”
“Certainly not, madam,” he replied, “the heat is guaranteed not to go beyond a definite temperature.”
“Well—I’m not mentioned as beneficiary if it did,” I reminded him, “so keep your eye on the thermometer. May I read?”
He brought me a book guaranteed to keep me awake, tucked a pillow behind my celestially inclined neck, and left me.
The guarantee on the book failed, and I shut it, and closed my eyes.
“Might as well sleep off this oil jag as not,” I thought. “It’s sort of like Christmas eve, the sooner I go to sleep the sooner I’ll know what my fate is.”
The first thing I knew I felt a queer sensation and looking up I saw a large boa constrictor writhing its way down the cords toward my head, and with a WHOOP for help I scrambled out of the
chair, or tried to. Of course the whoop and the strain on my tortured scalp awakened me just as the white faced attendent came rushing in.
“Wwhwhwhat s-sms-m-m-atter?” he stammered.
“The oil permeated my brain and gave me nightmare,” I retorted, putting out a tentative hand to assure myself that my head was still related to the rest of me. “I saw a snake and nearly hung myself.” He began to breathe easier and then fooled around with his little sausage rolls which held all that was left of my hair.
“Madam might have ruined the apparatus,” he reproved.
“Huh,” I said, “it might have ruined me, you mean. How soon will I be done?” “Another half hour ought to do it.” “I’ll say it should,” I echoed, “f’ve steamed in oil longer now than it takes me to boil a ham. How do you tell when I’m done? Stick a straw in my head or shake me and listen?”
“Madam is facetious,” he grinned, wagging a jovial finger at me.
“Well, she’ll be fractious in about twenty seconds,” I stated, glaring at his finger. “Don’t do that. Go away until it’s time to take me out of my tins.”
He left and I scowled at the ceiling and everything in general until he came back and began to untie me.
“If Madam’ll sit still,” he cautioned. “I want to see me.”
“You’ll see soon enough,” he said. “That sounds more like a threat than a promise.”
He merely grinned and a moment later swung the chair around so that I faced a mirror. I was rewarded for my sufferings. “Will I look like this for four months?” He nodded.
“All I can say is that I wish the Prince of Wales had put off his visit until now, and that I was still single,” I remarked.
I paid him, powdered my nose, touched up my lips with his little red “rubylip” pencil, and felt like Helen of Troy, Cleopatra and a kid on a merry-go-round.
\ I T'HEN I sailed out of that store I was V V so proud of myself I doubt if I’d have more than bowed to George Rex himself. I only stopped long enough to buy myself - a pair of amethyst ear-rings.
I decided to walk part of the way home that I might regale myself with visions of myself caught in shop windows. It proved fatal.
After a while I noticed that instead of one reflection in the glass there were always three when I stopped. I turned and was faced by two nicely dressed smirking young men. Naturally I started off at a brisk walk intending to hop on the next car which ran out to Kingsmede. Three cars went along before a Kingsmede came, and then, as ill luck would have it, I was in the middle of the block.
I could hear the quickening steps of the two behind me. My heart began to pound as I realized that I was actually being followed by mashers. When I came to the intersection where I could get my car I stopped, and so did they. One of them took a stand on either side of me, and both raised their hats.
“Excuse me, but haven’t we met somewhere?”
“Old stuff, ” I snapped, “you’d better move along.”
“I beg your pardon, but I’m sure there is something familiar about your face,” he persisted.
“Maybe you’ve met my daughter, she looks like me,” I said cuttingly.
“Egad, not only beauty, but wit as well,” cried the dark lad.
I stepped back a pace and walked to the nearest store where with my back to them I gazed into the window—and even as I gazed my reflection became triplets.
“Go ’way,” I said, “go way and leave me alone. I’ll tell my husband.”
“Why not your grandson, cutybunch?” said one of them, grinning. “Come on, don’t go home in the stuffy old street car, let us drive you home?”
“I won’t talk to you any more,” I said, almost crying, and I ran to the curb as I saw a Kingsmede car approaching.
They followed quickly, and as I went to step out, one caught my elbow and swung me around.
“Don’t be silly, we’ll run you home in no time,” they chorused.
I was so mad that all the blood, seemed to gather right over my eyes and in them. For a minute I was unable to speak. They had dropped my arm, and one of them leaned down to speak to me. Be-
fore I thought I swung out and landed a wollop right on his jaw. There was a yell, a sudden rush of feet closing in about us and before I knew what had happened a cop was in our midst.
“What’s all this?” he said..
“They’re mashers,” I cried, pointing an accusing finger at the two who were trying to slink out of sight. “They’re mashers and they wouldn’t let me get on the street car and they tried to make me go with them and they both laid hands on me and that’s assault, for Peter says so,” I cried.
“She’s crazy,” stated the one whom I hit. “She asked me for some dope and when I threatened to report her she hit me.”
“Do I look like it?” I merely asked the officer. “I demand that you arrest those two. We’ll see what they can get away with.”
The officer with a hand on each of them made them lead him to their car, and seated in the front seat, with one on either side, directed them to drive to the station.
“Gosh, I hope Peter doesn’t hear of this,” I mused.
We arrived at the station house, and were escorted in.
“What’s the charge, officer?” asked the magistrate.
“There’s a series, sor,” he said. “This young lady says these two are mashers who tried to get her away in their car, and they say she’s a doper who raised a row because they wouldn’t give her anything.”
“Let the young lady tell her story first,” decreed the magistrate, so I told just what had happened.
“A straight-forward story.” he commented, “now, sirrahs, yours please.”
“Please, sir,” I said, “wouldn’t it be a good plan to hear one at a time of them— and alone?”
“I daresay it would,” he stated, and he waved the one away and listened to the fair one’s stumbling tale. Then the other was called in, and if he didn’t mess things up!
“Do you wish to press the charge?” he asked me after he had told them several little sentences full of meaning.
“I’d like to press the charges with a riding crop so they wouldn’t try it again,” I said. “I hope the world will be free of such wolves when my little daughter’s grown up.”
“We’ll take their names and addresses —and yours, and if they’re ever brought in again it’ll go hard with them,” he said. “Your name.”
“This .won’t get into the papers, will it?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” he assured me.
“Mrs. Peter Ronald,” I said, and the man’s face changed as he gave me a quick look. He opened his mouth to speak, but at that moment a voice behind us broke the silence.
“Ah, Mr. Magistrate, and what have we run into here?” it queried.
AT THE sound of his voice both the boys ducked, and I swung around. Then I ducked too.
Peter and Mr. Elverson stood directly behind us. Peter’s eyes were upon the boys, so that I had time to give my hat a downward yank and turn my back before his gaze swung my way.
“Another case of mashers, Mr. Elverson,” said the magistrate, “these two gay young fellers trying to carry this little lady off in their car.”
“Despicable,” he snorted, stepping forward, “Do you—Good heavens!”
Peter stepped forward too, at the old man’s gasp, and I took a chance and looked at the tableau too.
“There must be some mistake,” he stuttered, “these are my nephews—good boys—pure boys.”
I was edging toward the door when he stopped me with a roar.
“Here, wait you,” and hanging my head and praying that Peter would be suddenly called away, I retraced my steps.
“The young lady’s story was perfectly plausible, sir,” said the desk sergeant. “It—”
“It would be,” he snapped, “young woman—”
“The two fellers told different stories, sir.”
“What can we do in a case like this, Mr. Ronald?” asked Mr. Elverson. “These lads are the victims—I’ll wager that. Why the hussy don’t even defend herself.”
“Pardon me/’ said the sergeant, “what is your name, sir?”
“Ronald,” said my husband’s voice, “Peter Ronald.”
“Then—” began the sergeant.
“S’no use,” I said, “it’s me, Peter.” “Holy Hannibel,” yelled Peter, “I resign.”
“Your s-s-s-sister,” stuttered Elverson. “His wife,” beamed the sergeant.
“The jig’s up,” I announced, “but I’m innocent on all charges.”
“I don’t understand,” began Peter, weakly.
“It’s simple,” I said brightly, “they tried to pick me up—and I had to call a cop. They said I asked for dope and so the officer brought us here and the sergeant made them tell their stories separately and they each told a different fairy tale. That’s all.”
“I don’t believe it,” said Mr. Elverson flatly, “they’re sweet, pure boys and—” “If you want the charge pressed I’ll add assault to the others,” I announced. “They both laid hands on me and kept me from taking my car. Peter, could we collect damages out of this?”
Peter merely put his hands to his head and tried to focus on me, while the sergeant nodded vigorously.
“Are you his wife or his sister?” asked Elverson.
“His wife, sir,” I said, “I’ll explain that little affair later.”
“H’m,” he said, “and what have you two fellers to say for yourselves? Is this lady right?”
They nodded miserably.
“All right,” he said, with menace in his voice, “I’ll see you later and I wish it might be in a woodshed. Sergeant, can you dismiss them?”
The sergeant did so, and they started out. Peter turned to me.
“I’ve got to square Elverson—at least I’ve got to keep his friendship if possible,” he hissed. “You take a taxi home and don’t so much as stick your head out until I come home. I’d like to take you to the woodshed too.”
“Put Peter dear,” I began.
“Save it,” he said tersely, “and think fast—you’ll need ail the excuses you can find.”
AFTER I got home I put my new hat sadly away, fed the twins, put them to bed, and gave Pansy the night off. I thought she was too young to hear what she might if she stayed. Then I powdered my face to make it look sort of pale, rouged circles under both eyes, and waited for Peter. It got dark but I was too miserable, and mad too, to light the lights. I sat planning what I was going to tell him about trusting his mate.
“You’d think I had picked them up instead of resisting them,” I thought hotly, but I decided that it might be better to be tender with Peter—sad and tender. I had just planned my line when I heard his step on the verandah and I ran to the hall. Before I had time to put the light on he stepped in, and I threw myself into his arms, wound mine tightly about his neck and kissed him hard.
“Sweetheart,” I murmured, “I’m so sorry for what happened. I was merely protecting the sanctity of our . . .” Just at this point I noted that he was gurgling and struggling, and at the same moment my hand which had been raised to stroke his hair stroked a marble smooth dome instead.
“Peter,” I hollered, “Peter—help.” “Lemme out,” murmured a strange voice, “lemme out, I say—”
The light flashed on, and there we stood, Peter with his mouth hanging open and his eyes like poached eggs, Mr. Elverson with his face and shoulder smeared with powder and a smudge of
my rouge on his nose and his eyes doing seven come-eleven without respect to the speed limit.
I recovered first.
“I’m afraid I made a slight mistake,” I said brightly.
“I’m afraid it is merely one of a succession,” stated Peter grimly.
“Lemme out,” quavered Mr. Elverson. “I never ...”
“Neither did I,” I said. “Let’s have a drink.”
“Ruth,” said Peter, “you go to bed.” “I won’t,” I said. “I’m going to see this through. Besides, there’s something I want to tell Mr. Elverson.”
Peter shrugged, glared and led the way into the living room. Mr. Elverson brushing all contamination from him, followed. I brought up the rear.
“I don’t know what Peter’s told you, and I don’t care,” I said. “He doesn’t know why I had my hair cut off, and he didn’t know I was having it done until I walked in on you yesterday. He knew you didn’t approve and so he made the fatal mistake of lying out of an awkward position and telling you—as you didn’t like bobbed hair, that I was a sister and had to have it done. I did have to have it done. I had to for the protection of my weaker sisters. Even Peter didn’t know. I am president of an association for the apprehension of mashers, and in order to help round them up and so protect the thoughtless girls who might be victimized I sacrificed my hair—my beautiful hair”—I sobbed here—“that I might look flapperish and so attract the species of human insect known as the flapper-masher. I deeply regret not having known of your association—and more deeply still do I regret that my first success caught your nephews. I feel that they have learned their lesson. Your organization and mine, which is secret—should do much toward making the world safe for our young.”
Mr. Elverson’s face was beaming when I had finished. Peter looked sheepish and uncomfortable.
“A noble woman,” breathed Mr. Elverson, his nose paint gleaming, “a noble, noble woman.”
“I also regret,” I stated, “that my husband did not see fit to acknowledge his wife—or to trust her. Mr. Elverson, good-night.”
Peter sneaked into the bedroom about half an hour later.
“I’m sorry, pet,” he said.
“You should be,” I answered. “Just let bygones be memories and say no more about it.”
“That’s generous dear,” he said, “and I’ll be generous too, I admit that I like your hair bobbed.”
“Speaking of generosity,” I said, “you owe me twenty dollars.”
“Wuffor?” asked Peter.
“My permanent wave,” I said, “guaranteed for four months. Really, Peter, it was very cheap,” and I told him about the marcelling and the washing and carfare.
“Well,” he said, “since you had it done for the association I think they should pay for it.”
“Oh, that,” I said “We’ve decided to disband.”
“Since when?” he asked.
“To-night,” I said airily.
“And may I ask,” said Peter, “when you formed?”
"This afternoon,” I grinned.
“You’re a little schemer and a--”
he began hotly.
“Hold on,” I said. “Did Elverson come across with your appointment?”
“Yes,” he admitted.
“Then where’s your kick?” I said. “Hand over the twenty.”
And Peter meekly obeyed.