AS THEY SAY IN PARIS....!
All good Canadians go to Paris when they die, it is said, and Pokey’s long suffering husband, Peter, may be pardoned if he breathes a wistful sigh of regret that his irresponsible wife’s visit to the gay capital was not deferred until that good lady had passed to her reward.
NORMA PHILLIPS MUIR
WELL," I said, as the train came to a stop in the Gare du Nord; “well—”
“If you say, ‘so this is Paris,’ I’ll wallop you,” announced Peter without heat, and with a grin cutting his face like a gash in a pie.
“Glad to be back, aren’t you,
Pop?” I asked.
“Sure am,” he said, and a moment later he had installed me in a taxi and we were on our way to the Hotel Continental.
Thrilled? Say, I was almost crying, and I became actually dizzy trying to see at least two ways at once! Peter kept ejaculating as he recognized places, and it just seemed to me as though, in a moment, I would hear Joan calling, and realize that it was time to put the coffee on.
“Should have seen it in war-time, Ruth, or better yet the day that France welcomed Alsace and Lorraine back into the Republic,” cried Peter. “Never saw such a celebration in my life as that one was. Everybody just crazy for joy, and when the French go crazy for joy or rage— it’s something to remember, girl.”
Soon we stopped before our hotel, and while Peter watched to see that all our bags were safely out of the taxi, I just stood open mouthed and gaping.
“Close your mouth, dear, that sort of thing’s hard on the hinges,” said Peter, and not wishing to make a bad start, I did as he told me, and refrained from staring when we were inside the hotel, although I felt an insane desire to shout ‘so this is Paris’ and see what Peter and the perfectly proper attendants would do.
I restrained myself, however, and a few moments found us in our room, with Peter looking raptly out of the window.
“It was early in ’15 that I had my first leave, Pokey,” he said, “and Hal and I -— this is the very same room, honey, I sort of wanted us to have it.”
“Sentimental sinner,” I murmured, trying to decide what was what on the menu card which was under the glass of the dressing table.
“We hadn’t had a hang up meal for ages, and we decided to order everything on the menu, and if we went bust it’d be in a good cause. Say, we had the whole shebang, from hors d’oeuvres to creme de menthe in the coffee, and all it set us back was-—let me see; well, anyway, it wasn’t more than three dollars apiece.”
“Let’s do it to-night,” I suggested.
“Huh, they’ve learned a trick or two about Canadians and Yankees since those bright days!” frowned Peter. “What you lost at Ostend would have dined us at the Ritz in splendor, my dear.”
“I’d almost forgotten about the Ritz here,” I said. “I s’pose it’s the original definition of glory. Let’s go there for afternoon tea, to-morrow, after we do a little shopping.”
“We’ll see,” temporized my husband; “anyway, I
thought we’d dine at the British Pavilion on the Seine to-night. It’s the rendezvous for Britishers who are over here. Fine dance floor, too.”
“Do we dress?” I asked eagerly.
“Even if this is Paris, don’t let me catch you wandering around without your full complement of clothing, Mrs. Ronald,” he said sternly. “Of course we dress.”
“I meant, do we wear dinner gowns?”
“You do, but I don’t think I shall,” he said. “As a matter of fact, it’s very informal, I’m told, and people even dine there in tailleurs.”
“Then I’ll wear something simple and a hat and save the price of a marcel,” I decided, and put on the coral, flat crepe outfit, with the cloche hat to match, which Peter had bought for me in Bond Street. There was coat of brown bengaline, cut with a flare and collared with beige fox, which went with it, and I thought I was the gilt on the lily when I had those duds on. Peter thought so, too, and when he turned me around to see if I had spilled any powder on me, he grinned his satisfaction and holding me off at arms’ length, said:
“If you act as much like a lady as you look, I’ll have no kick coming, but if you get off on the wrong foot to-night, sister, we eat at lunch counters, or in our room, the rest of our time in Paris. See?”
“If you get me nervous and thinking about myself, I don’t know what I’ll do,” I told him. “If I’m my usual happy self, things go along all right, but as soon as you begin to fuss, it gets me all up in the air, and I’m likely to do anything.”
“Then we just won’t think of anything but perfection,” he soothed me. “You look wonderful, and we’re going to have a bully time. How’s that?”
“A fine start,” I smiled. “Get your life-saver and come on.” I pointed to his stick, and Peter scowled and then thought better of it, and showed his teeth, and we started out.
“Do we walk, tram it, or taxi?” I asked.
“One always taxis in Paris, unless one walks, to better see what one wishes to see,” stated Peter.
“How about two?” I asked.
“You say one does so and so, and I ask what two do?” “One of the two gets walloped when she gets home,” he said, and boosted me into a taxi.
“Just like I’ve read about,” I said contentedly. “Taxi comes in answer to whistle, I drive in style to dine at a swell joint.”
“Only ladies don’t say ‘swell joint,’ ” suggested Peter gently.
“Now, don’t get me nervous,” I warned, and I almost giggled to see how Peter brightened up so that he wouldn’t be accused of responsibility if anything happened.
“He’s going too fast for me to see anything,” I complained. “Make him slow up, Peter.”
“Retardez vous, s’i I vous plait,” called Peter, and the taxi stopped.
“I didn’t say stop, I said to go slower,” cried Peter in English anger.
“ble comprend . .
“N’allez vous pas, tres vite,” he tried again, and with a grunt the driver sorted out the meaning and the tin-can taxi started off again at a more moderate speed.
Peter kept pointing places out to me, and finally he told me that the buildings we were approaching were the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais and that we were about to cross the Pont Alexandre.
We did, and discharged the taxi and made our way to the cafe which was right at the river edge. Peter was a bit peeved because he had to part with a perfectly good twenty franc note to get seats near the window, but it was worth it. Across from us, was a boat cafe called ‘Poiret’s boat,’ and it was as gay with lights and sparkle as I suppose ours was from their side. Then, too, we had a wonderful view of the bridge and the fountains which would play later. If he had told me just all of what was to happen we would have been saved a great deal of sorrow, but that is not Peter’s way. He is troubled with a chronic case of hindsight.
“Madame desire?” asked the waiter at my elbow.
“You order to-night, dear,” I said with some sang froid, and Peter gave me a grateful look and did so, while I picked up the wine list and studied the C’s to see about Champagne. I didn’t meet Peter’s eye, and the first intimation I had that he was watching me, was when I heard him say something to the waiter in a hoarse voice which sounded like ‘Avian.’
“Cheap skate,” I muttered, and then I forgot about the wine for the women entered.
“Gosh, there goes Gaby Deslys,” I cried.
“Shush up,” hissed Peter.
“And she’s killed her hen for a head-dress,” I giggled, recalling that Gaby had to have a hen with her wherever she went so she’d have a fresh egg every day.
“Will you dry up?” requested Peter.
“I would, if I waited for you to buy me wine,” I retorted. “Look, Peter, please look!” and he cautiously risked one eye on the lovely lady with the feathers in her hair and the jewels on her neck and wrists and fingers. He took a long look and then hitched his chair so he could see her—permanently, for the evening.
“As you were, Peter,” I said sternly. “This may be Paris, but you aren’t without your responsibility this trip.”
“I’m beginning to realize it,” he said nastily.
“Now, don’t get me worked up,” I said, and he smiled feebly and took up his glass.
“Drop it!” I yelled, and Peter jumped a couple of feet, slopped water down his front and just saved the glass. “Say, what’n—” he snarled in cold fury. “Why’dja-—” “To save your life darling,” I told him. “You almost took a drink of that unbottled water.”
“My sad aunt, is that all?” he glared. “Well, I might as well die of typhoid as drowning.”
“ 'T’s all the thanks I get,” I mourned. “Say, waiter, who’s who here, to-night?”
“Ruth—” pleaded Peter.
“The lady with the paradise is Zantippe Zotique,” he said, mentioning a well known dancer. “Behind her is ze Duchesse de Broke, and at ze right are ze Wellington Bluchers, wealthy American guests at the Embassy.” “For Heaven’s sake, Luke Blücher here?” I exclaimed, “now isn’t the world small after all?”
“Ruth—” gasped Peter, as I half turned with a smile on my face.
“Oh, finish your funny food and leave me alone,” I said; “and don’t eat so much you can’t dance, either.” “Do you know that woman?” he asked.
“How can I tell when you won’t let me look?” I countered reasonably. “Anyway, it’s nothing for you to get excited about and snuffle your soup.”
He didn’t even glare. He just looked resigned and did not indulge in either threats or pleas as I expected. He merely ignored me and gave his full attention to his food.
“If I insulted my digestion with the sort of stuff you do, I’d watch it, too,” I told him, referring to the hors d’oeuvres. “Your last course looked as though it might come at a whistle.”
He didn’t answer me.
“I don’t think I’d want to come here alone, Peter,” I ventured.
“You wouldn’t get the chance unless I was under an anaesthetic,” he growled.
“But those ladies haven’t any escort with them,” I pointed out.
“Fer the luva good gravy!” he ejaculated. “Excuse me a minute, Ruth,” and without waiting to explain, crossed the room and joined the two ladies whom I had indicated. A moment afterward, two gentleman joined them and they shook hands all round and talked, and just as I began to think it was time for my husband to return to the fold, the inevitable happened.
“Would Madame care to dance?” asked a suave voice, and I looked up to see before me a slim young man, faultlessly dressed and full of smiles.
“I-I-Ib-b-b-eg your pardon?” I stammered.
“Would Madame care to dance?” he repeated.
“Who’re you?” I asked peremptorily.
“W-w-w-hy I am — that is •— you s-s-s-ee—”
“Not what you’re doomed to see in a coupla minutes,” I told him. “You beat it quick before my husband comes back, you young whippersnapper.
My husband eats little fellows like you before breakfast every morning.”
“Full stop after ‘mad’,” I says. “Git while you’ve a whole hide with you.”
“Git,” I said succinctly, and, as he still lingered, I rose, and, picking up the bottle of water, I grasped it firmly by the neck and swung it a couple of times.
As a matter of actual fact, I had no intention of hitting him with it and so creating a scene, but, as I swung it, some woman, who must have been watching, screamed. I half turned to see what was bothering her, the bottle still uplifted in my hand, and it caught the head-waiter who was passing, and almost knocked him cold.
“Strike one,” I remember thinking hysterically, but that was the last thought I had, hysterical or otherwise.
“Ruth, drop it,” called a stern voice, and I did just as I was told, and the bottle landed on the shiny toes of my would-be-gallant, and sent him hopping for home.
“My Lord, what started this?” groaned Peter, picking up the largest remnant of the bottle in order to hide, for moment, his red face. “Do I have to tie you up or hire a keeper, whenever I leave you for five minutes?”
“Hire a hall,” I suggested. “That minion insulted me and I merely picked up the bottle, to have it handy if I needed it to protect myself and our honor, and some silly woman yelled, and when I turned to see what her trouble was, the Johnny with the hardest boiled shirt runs into me and then I get blamed.”
“How’d he insult you?” asked Peter sternly.
“Came simpering up and asked me to dance with him ’s though I didn’t have a husband to dance with me. Tried to cop me out, the young—”
“That,” said Peter, with deadly quiet, “is the professional dancer. He is hired by the Pavilion to dance with ladies who have no escort or whose escorts do not dance. If you’d waited—”
“If you hadn’t waited,” I retaliated. “That’s you. Always wait until I’m in a mess before you show me the way I might have kept out of it.”
“You take the law into your own hands—”
“Merely a bottle, Peter,” I corrected him.
“Don’t try to be funny,” he hissed. “You— ”
“Only truthful, dear,” I interrupted him. “What I’d do—”
“I know what you’d do. If I dropped a match you’d ring in a general fire alarm. If I cut my finger you’d amputate my arm. If I-—”
“If your engine’d run down, you’d save yourself the agony of consuming cold fodder,” I said rudely. “Forget there’s a war on, Pop, and pretend there’s an armistice.” “Just when I was about to bring my friends over,” he grumbled.
“I don’t want to meet them, Peter. I’m happy as I am, with just you and Paris.”
“It’ll be you and Paris green if you don’t watch your step,” he amended, and from then on we might as well have been eating cold toast from the pantry shelf for all the chance I had to get a kick out of Paris. And the worst hadn’t come yet.
He wouldn’t dance with me, wouldn’t give me anything stronger than coffee to drink, and when I protested, he threatened to take me back to England the next day if I didn’t shush.
“Any one would know you were my husband,” I told him.
“Whatcha want them to think I am?” he asked, horrified.
“I didn’t think women ever went out with their own husbands in Paris, and I’m all for adopting continental customs if this is a sample of your fervor,” I said tartly. “Peter, please let me have one little sip of champagne.”
“That matter is settled,” he said cruelly. “If you can do what you did on soup, Lord know what would happen on champagne,” and then he called for our cheque and gave me a nasty look when I tried to see how much he tipped the waiter.
“In Paris, ladies don’t pay any attention to money matters,” he intimated.
“Will ya-—” began my fond mate, but at that moment there occurred one of those dark deeds which Fate engineers.
I had my back to the river, when I heard an ominous hush, followed by sharp exclamations, gasps and cries, and at the same moment the room was lighted with a red glare which filled it and caused the blackclad waiters to appear gnome-like in comparison to their grotesque, oversized shadows.
“Fire!” I yelled. “Keep cool, everybody. Women and—”
A hand closed over my mouth. A familiar, furious voice hissed something in my ear, and I felt myself being pulled and pushed and generally hustled out of the room.
“Peter,” I began when we were safely ensconced in our taxi. “Peter, DEAR—”
“Don’t,” he said, hoarsely. “I’m not responsible for my actions.”
“That’s not a change,” I said. “I thought—”
He gave me a look that shrivelled me, and I didn’t peep again until we were in our room at the hotel, and then I picked up Peter’s stick, to have it handy if he got violent.
“There isn’t a woman under Heaven can do more to wreck a man’s hopes than you can,” he said bitterly. “Two raw ones inside of half an hour is the world’s record, Mrs. Ronald.”
“Then I’m a champeen, aren’t I?” I giggled, and I pretended the stick was a golf club and swung it at an imaginary ball. It wasn’t my fault that Peter’s powder can was sitting just at the right place to be caught, but it was, and it went careening through the open window and
it didn’t take Peter two seconds to switch our lights off.
“My sacred ancestors, what next?” he moaned.
“Come on and watch the crowd,” I called from the window, but Peter merely hauled me in and made me undress in the dark for fear the gendarmes would come up and demand — whatever it is that gendarmes demand.
“I like this life, something doing every minute,” I said gayly.
No answer. “Peter, did you know they were going to have that illumination?” “That,” he said shortly, “was my main object in taking you there. I wanted to surprise you.”
“Well, I hope you weren’t disappointed,” I suggested.
“The illumination of the Pont Alexandre and of the fountains is greatly talked about.” “Nothing to what it will be after tonight,” I giggled. “But, Peter, you know that ever since you set our house afire under me, I’ve been nervous about fire. You ought to have prepared me. Anyway, I kept my head. Who were all the men yelling ‘assy’ at?”
“Who d’ye think?”
“If it was me—I-I’ll go back there and—”
“As a matter of fact, they were calling out ‘a-s-s-e z,’ meaning to sit down,” he explained. “Now, do you think you could let me go to sleep?”
“Come, sweet Morpheus, amnesia in thy train,” I said, and I wished for a green onion to put in his pillow just to sweeten his dreams. I didn’t dare ask the service dining room to send one up, so I called it a day and contented myself with making up verses about the evening’s entertainment for his further edification and enjoyment.
Peter pretended to be asleep, but I knew from the way he breathed that he wasn’t, and finally I decided to test him, so I recited my poem, softly but distinctly:
The Pavilion was full of class The waiters were a black clad mass,
But one guy there was fresh and crass
And on a gentle, pure souled lass He forced his cheap attention.
But she, her bottle hard did crash
Upon his skull. Spake: “Minion, pass,
I’ve never seen your like for brass;
Upon your grave will grow green grass.”
Revenge was her intention.
Then through the din was heard a bass
Voice saying sternly “Who shall dass
To spill good wine and bust good glass
Upon a simple dancing ass
Sans all social distinction?”
The woman wept, the dancer gnashed
His molars white and ...”
‘Errrrhup, haha-hahahah!’ burbled Peter, and he heaved and chortled and choked. Finally he got up and put the light on, and made me recite it again so he could write it down. By the time that was done, he was in good humor again and we went to sleep with peace reigning in the Ronald family.
AR broke out again in the * ' morning. I wanted to go shopping and Peter wanted to go to Versailles. I knew the longer we put off the shopping trip the less there’d be to shop with, and we argued all through our meagre breakfast of rolls and coffee and jam, until, through sheer weariness, Peter gave in.
“Have I got to be dragged along, and if so, why?” he asked after the capitulation.
“Yes, to carry the money and give me the benefit of your judgment,” I said, “and also to protect me from trouble.”
“Laugh that off if you can,” he suggested. “You keep your mind off trouble and it may influence your feet to steer clear of it.”
“That man over there smiled at me,” I said, to change the conversation.
“If he knew what I do, he’d laugh himself to death,” my husband said morosely, and he hailed a taxi and assisted me into it and gave the order: “Place Vendôme.” “Rue de la Paix,” I hollered.
“Shush up and subside,” said Peter. “They run into ■each other.”
“Another collision,” I mourned. “Peter, how much may I spend?”
“Two hundred and fifty dollars, Ruth, and not a cent more.”
“That is—let me see—I haven’t got enough fingers to add that,” I said. “Loan me a slate.”
“It’s five thousand in francs, roughly speaking,” he said.
“That’s right, be natural,” I encouraged him. “Whatcha mean?”
“Just about the rough speaking,” I said. “Will that -buy a dress and a cloak and a couple of hats?”
“If it doesn’t, you’re destined to do without,” he informed me. “Here’s where we get out, and that, Pokey, is the Ritz, the real one, and the ritziest of the bunch.”
“We’ll come here for afternoon tea,” I decided.
“Nix!” shouted Peter. “Taking you to the Ritz would be like inviting a bull dog and a Persian cat to a memorial service. You better try a-street cafe like you’ve read about.”
“Two are always better than one,” I said.
“Unless it’s boils or wives,” he amended. “We’ll see about the Ritz.”
I didn’t argue the matter, but I decided it satisfactorily to myself and relegated it to future business. What was worrying me most, after I got a glimpse of a few of the dresses modelled for us in one of the most famous salons of fashion, was the fact that my five thousand francs was looking like somebody’s poor relation to me.
“If you watch your step and don’t pull anything, I’ll raise you twenty five,” whispered Peter.
“I’ll walk so carefully you won’t even find dust on my shoes,” I told him, and then Madame, who was in charge, ushered in another sweet morsel of femininity clad in a clinging gown of gray.
I was revelling in the experience. The upper room into which we had been ushered was large and airy, and done in neutral tones which would blend with any color. We sat back in large comfortable chairs, and Peter, who had been offered cigarettes and a light by a demure damsel with a wicked eye, had forgotten that he was going to feel like a ‘dizzy fool’ and settled back to enjoy himself.
“I’d love a clingy dress like that gray one, Peter,” I said in a low voice.
“You aren’t built along the lines to wear it,” he said. “There’s too much for it to cling to, in your case.”
“Don’t forget that you’re the father of a family,” I reminded him, and then, Madame drew near and fluttered and enquired about the ‘enfants’ and asked, “combien avez vous?”
“Douze,” I told her.
“Mon Dieu,” she shrieked, “you—”
“You have not,” said Peter flatly. “D’you know what you told her?”
“I told her I had two children, and to the best of my knowledge—”
“You did not, you told her you had twelve,” grated Peter. “You said douze when you should have said d e u x.”
“Merely a lapse of lingy, darling,” I smiled airily, and I would have said more, but at that moment the model entered, wearing a lettuce green confection which took my breath away. I wanted it, but when I asked how
much it was, which I infer isn’t done, the price took my appetite away, too, so I was in a bad way. Peter was strong for a simple little blue frock which looked reasonable, but from its repression I knew it would sing way up in the top register, so I waved it away and smiled on a black and white creation which would have necessitated an operation for superfluous figure, so that was out of the question, too.
“Haven’t you anything for a little soul like me?” 1 asked naively.
“Madame is little ze long way but ze ozzer way—la la,” she sighed.
“Guess that’ll hold you for a while,” said Peter, and when I made a face at him he intimated that he’d taken ten dollars off my limit.
I finally decided on a violet tinted dress which was not too fussy, and Peter took another cigarette and suggested that we be shown some wraps. He didn’t like the black silk velvet lined with cloth of gold, which I wanted, but insisted on a gaudy affair which might have claimed the same distinction as Joseph’s coat, only it was in gold llama.
“I like it; we’ll take it,” he decided and waved it toward the dress.
“They certainly won’t look for religion or repression in anyone who wears that,” I sighed. “I’ll look sweet, cranking the flivver in that, won’t I?”
“Will you kindly forget the mean side of life?” he asked crossly.
“How can I when I’m with you?” I retaliated. “Peter-—” and I took a stealthy look and saw that for a moment we were alone, “Peter, stand up and turn around a minute.”
“Whassamatter?” he asked anxiously, but obeying without delay.
“Nothing, I want to see the back of this again,” I said, and before he could move I had the cloak around him.
“Hey! Nix! Take it offa me,” he hissed.
“Stand still or you’ll drop it Here, tie that quick before it falls,” I said, and Peter, too dumbfounded to know what he was doing tied the cord under his chin and turned wrathfully on me.
“Git me outta this rig," he whispered in an awful voice.
“Just a minute, now, turn slowly,” I said, thoroughly enjoying myself.
“Say, if you don’t—”
“Swing it open a minute, Peter, and then I will take it off,” I said, “like this—” and I made a sweeping gesture which Peter imitated faithfully.
“ ‘Tell them Caesar shall not forth to-day,’ I giggled, and Peter’s look would have annihilated me, had it had the power.
He raised his hand and gave the cord a yank. Just at that moment the door opened, and before I could speak, Peter gave a gasp of horror, his mouth opened and shut like that of a fish in a net, and he dived—dived out of sight behind a gold and lacquer screen, his coat of many colors flapping about his knees, and the back of his neck the brightest tint of any.
In through the door came Colonel Barton Manders, Peter’s O.C. during the late lamented war, and with him was Mrs. Manders.
“Why, Mrs. Ronald, this is indeed a pleasure,” said the colonel. “Where is the major?”
“He can’t be far from here, now,” I said truthfully, “he was with me a moment ago but he disappeared for a little while on some urgent business. He’ll be back.”
“Have you chosen anything yet?” asked Mrs. Manders, and I told her about the cloak and dress while the colonel wandered about and almost gave me nervous prostration Once, he went toward the screen, as though to examine it, and I knew I had to stop him.
“Do come and sit down beside me, Colon'll,” I called, and at the urgency in my voice he came, while Mrs. Manders gave me an appraising glance, and then told Madame she wished to see evening gowns.
“Ze ozzer gentleman?” inquired Madame.
“See what a chap Peter still is with the ladies,” laughed the colonel, while I told the woman he’d be right back. “When we were in France and England,” continued the colonel, “he was the most popular man in the battalion; a regular ladies’ man. We used to call him ‘Romeo Ronald or the Favorite of the Harem!”
Continued on page 46
As They Say In Paris . . . !
Continued, from page 20
“How apt,” I smiled. “He always was a devil with the women at home, full of little quips and tricks and -—”
“That’s the major, but never really naughty, oh no, no!” the colonel assured me. “Why, after we came over here there wasn’t a mail that he didn’t get parcels from England.”
“No wonder he came home looking like the fatted calf,” I said, “Talk some more, colonel.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that, inch by cautious inch, the screen was moving out of range of the colonel’s eye, and finally Peter took a chance and peeked around the corner of it^p give me a pleading look, but I just grinned at him and egged the eolonel on to tell more.
Peter was going through some pantomime of agony which included the suggestion that he was strangling, and I almost hoped he was. I made out that the cord was tied in a hard knot, and I almost burst with suppressed giggles to see him gradually edging the screen toward me, and finally both the colonel and I jumped at a sudden, but subdued ‘Hisssst,’ which sounded behind us.
“Ww-w-w-hat was that?” gasped the colonel.
“Some one tearing silk and the acoustics are poor,” I said quickly, and I glared toward the screen.
The colonel and his lady settled down again and were shown several evening gowns, and then I became aware that every time Madame entered the room with a model, the two exchanged knowing glances, and I realized that they were getting suspicious about Peter’s absence.
“Maybe it’s only a run in my stocking or my lip’s slipped,” I thought hopefully, and I took on my vanity to see, but everything was all right, and I was just about to put it away, when in the mirror I caught sight of Peter, reflected in a large pier glass which was in line with him, and he was in a dickens of a fix.
He’d tugged and worked at that knot until the cord had tightened so that he couldn’t work at it any more, and he was struggling like a worm on a hook and utterly Jjelpless. I saw Peter’s mouth move, put from his expression I doubted that it was in prayer, and I was wondering what I could do, when he took another peek and saw me watching.
“Git me outta this mess,” I saw him say, and after thinking hard for a moment I took out my shopping book, and printed on one of the pages, in good sized letters:
“Pull it over head.”
A beatific expression crossed his face as he got my meaning, and as the model and Madame re-entered the room and cast another look in my direction, I closed the book and gave them a sweet smile, confident that all would be well in a few minutes.
“Madame’s cloak which she chose, it has disappear,” said Madame to me.
“I’m not going yet, it’ll turn up,” I assured her, and stole a look to see how Peter was getting on. To my horror I saw that he was stuck.
Heaven knows how he did it, but he had twisted that cloak around so that the back was in the front and it was as far on its upward flight as the bridge of his nose. There it balked, and Peter was breathing hard and what I could see of him was redder than rhubarb.
“My Gosh!” I exclaimed, and then, as the Manders both turned in astonishment; “isn’t that perfectly exquisite,” I concluded, waving a weak finger toward the latest model exhibited.
“Chaste and simple,” said Mrs. Manders.
“I ain’t simple, but I may be chased,” I giggled hysterically, and again they looked their wonder. There wasn’t time for me to try and cover that break.
From behind us, there came a roar as from a bull in battle, puffs, and grunts, and then a little cuss word which was immediately followed by a shriek and a crash.
“Jump!” I yelled at the colonel, as I saw the screen coming his way.
“Bolsheviks,” I hollered, and then the screen hit him, and he went down under it, with Peter on top, and Solomon in all his glory was not like unto my Peter.
“Help,” gurgled Peter; “I’m choking.”
“People can’t talk when they’re strangling,” I told him coldly. “Hold still while I undo you.”
“I am undone. Roll me over,” came his muffled voice.
“Heave a couple of tons off me,” squeaked the colonel, and with the help of Mrs. Manders, Madame and a couple of the models who rushed to our assistance in possession of their slips and wits, we pried Peter off the screen and the screen off the colonel. Then we sat Peter up, and pushed the cloak up from his face.
“It’s stuck,” he said feebly.
“You don’t tell us? Why not issue a communique?” I asked ironically.
“Use your fingers and forget your voice,” he growled.
“To do, or not to do, that is the question,” I giggled, trying first to pull it over his nose and then get it off him from below.
“My sad aunt, leave my features alone,” he shrieked. “Cut that bow tie business or undo the knot but don’t operate on my anatomy.”
“Let me do it,” suggested the colonel, who was still a bit puffed, but not lacking in dignity.
“Yes, let him do it,” said Peter. “If you hadn’t come in when you did, sir—”
“Where were you all the time?” asked the colonel, tugging until he had Peter on his knees, and struggling with the knot.
“Romeo, where wert thou?” I asked.
Peter and the colonel exchanged long looks full of meaning, and then they both reddened, but from different causes.
“Some day, Pokey,” gritted my husband.
“Let us live for to-day, dear,” I said, “and before she has a chance to ask for damages, tell Madame we’d bought the cloak at the first figure quoted.”
Peter, free at last, smiled at everybody, paid for the cloak and dress and ordered them sent to the hotel, and still smiling, one of the kind that’s liable to turn into a snarl at any minute, he led me from the establishment.