Have You Seen Ann?
Ann may have been incomparable, but that didn’t save her from her Waterloo
N. DE BERTRAND LUGRIN
FRANK DAVIS, better known as Major Frank, because his brother was the colonel, had returned to Canada, for the first time since the War.
He had left in 1917, aged twenty, and in the eight years since then, he had seen much of life. For, after the Armistice, he had asked to go to Egypt, and to the Nile he had been sent.
His five years in that ancient country had been packed full of such experience as goes with the constant putting down of native uprisings. And he had taken his year’s leave in Paris.
Followed, six months in England. There his brother had married the daughter of a baronet, who, because all of the male line had been killed off, had come into large estates and a considerable fortune. The familyplace in Devonshire had been a centre of endless gaiety-, for the heiress was both young and pretty, and having stifled all of her natural yearnings, to engage in the arduous business of carrying on a canteen in France for three years, the pendulum was now twinging the other way.
Taking it on the whole —Egy pt, Paris and London— Major Frank had seen something of the world and its women.
He flattered himself that he was rather a connoisseur as regards femini And yet, when Tom Seldridge drove him out to The Place, one day in late summer and he twins. Flora and Dora, he was just a little du at their beauty.
beauty. ;om town met the bounded
Theycame running across the lawn to meet had been scrawny, freckle-faced wisps whei away, whom nobody took seriously. Irreprei^.^,^ boys, as much in the wayof their brother Turnend-hio friends as are Airedales in a drawing room. But now!
“I can't bear the sight of you.” The major held up protesting hands. “Not all at once. Advance by degrees. Have mercy on my poor eyes, my dazzled senses—”
Six yards away, they came to a standstill, laughing joyously. Tall as goddesses, fair as lilies. The sun full on their golden heads, their eager faces, their lovely bare arm3 and silken shod legs. As alike as twin irises, and iris-blue their black-fringed eyes.
“Bar none, you are the most ‘buch’us’ things that ever jaded orbs beheld,” he told them, looking at Tom who stood beside him, for confirmation. And then all three, twins and brother, demanded as though it were a chorus; “ Have you seen Ann?”
He stared at them. “Once more please, a little higher. Tom, you were off the key.”
“lí ou know that advertisement of Maintenant Beauty Cream? That huge thing of the girl and the poppies?” asked Dora.
He did. They had been putting it on hoardings for two years now. Even in Cairo—
“Well, that's Ann,” said the twins together.
"A beastly crude thing for her to do,” Tom expressed himself. “And no one knew anything about it till it was done. A New York company was asking for photographs, offering a prize—”
“A thousand dollars,” broke in Flora,
“And Ann won it,” shouted Dora gleefully.
“Dp till two years ago everybody thought we were the pretty ones,” began Flora modestly; “but now—” “Nobody looks at us, only at Ann. She’s gone on getting prettier and prettier,” finished Dora.
“Where is she?” Major Frank looked all around, up in the trees and in the sky.
“Oh, 3he’s away. Out of town. Gone to New York for her trousseau, with dad.”
“No chance for me then?”
“Not a bit,” Tom laughed.
“But you know you’re awfully like Roger.” The girls -stcTod off and looked him over.
“Except that Roger limps a bit—” began Flora. “He’s got his legs all right,” Dora interrupted. “Just a tendon missing or something.”
“No, a proper bone,” corrected Flora. “Don’t you remember? He brought it home in a little bottle in alcohol? Thought it was rather precious. And when they were engaged he gave it to Ann.”
“And she threw it in the lake.” Dora’s large eyes were reproachful. “Rather unfeeling of her. I say, Frank, if you’d shave off your moustache you’d be the image of Roger!”
The major looked dubious. “The moustache comes
off, because mother hates the sight of it, but-”
“Then,” cried Flora eagerly, “we shall have a splendid joke on Ann.”
At the house, when he met Mrs. Seldridge, he waxed eloquent over the beauty of the twins.
She admitted their loveliness, their good nature, their popularity: “But, my dear Frank, have you seen Ann?” It was just the same at the dinner dance that night. The moment he began to dilate upon the charms of Flora and Dora, he was met with the same exclamatory question: “Have you seen Ann?”
Always excepting Lawson, junior. Lawson had grown up, too, since the major’s departure. He was a ruddyhaired youth, now, of three and twenty, with a dazzling smile. Home from McGill. Going into law. In love with Flora.
“But why Flora?” asked the major; “why not Dora?” “They’re not a bit alike,” protested Junior.
“You should know.”
“Let me tell you another thing. Ann isn’t such a much ...”
“You have, I think, courage to say so, in view . . . ” “Oh, I don’t go shouting it round. But it’s my opinion.”
“I’m glad to hear it. It makes for variety. Did she turn you down?”
“In the first place, she’s small,” Junior continued unpertuibed, “Not frail and tiny, but just a handful, if you know what I mean. And dark hair with no color at all. And I say,” he lowered his voice confidentially and-suake. behind his hand, although they were in the garden, and there jwas no one within sight or sound of ■ them, “she’s a-what do
you think-a regular little glutton. I mean it— food . . . Puts her jolly appetitfe before everything. Keeps you waiting while she eats—no matter how late she is— oh, you can laugh—” The major could and did.
“You’ll see,” went on Junior: “she wouldn’t miss a meal if the house was burning down. And —now wait a minute—I haven’t finished, she’ll flirt with you. Nobody escapes her. Being engaged makes no difference. Everybody’s got to fall for her. She— she’s a sort of vampire, if you know what I mean.”
“Help!” entreated the major.
“Y0u ’ 11 need it. That’s why I’m warning you.”
Davis regarded Junior thoughtfully. “I believe I prefer Flora,” he said.
“Eh?” Junior returned the appraising glance and decided the major was much too good-looking to prefer his girl; “come to think of it, I believe you’d like Ann. One thing about her, she’s no end plucky. ).J She broke up a fight be-
tween the Aipdale and the Setter and got her dress 'Tôrn~foYîîtsH And when the gardener’s house was on fire, she ran right in to get the cat. And once when Flora had a cramp in the lake—”
“In the leg, you mean?”
“Ann got her out. Half drowned doing it. But she’s the heck of a swimmer. A little devil, of course, where men are concerned, but so long’s you’re on your guard— besides she’s a more or less Oriental type, she’d probably suit you no end.”
“Good Lord, Lawson, why d’you s’pose I left Egypt?”
“Is that so, major?”
“Is what so?”
“Did you, I mean to say, was there some Cleopatra affair or other?” Junior was young enough to want to appear sophisticated.
“Rats!” said the major: “who’s this coming with the house crowd?”
“That chap, limping? Cummins, Roger Cummins. The man who’s going to marry Ann.”
Davis was introduced. They stood talking together, the centre of a little group. Laughing remarks passed on every side because of their likeness, and, quite naturally, both of them resented it, and took a vague dislike to one another.
rPHE twins arranged the next scene, though no one D knew it except themselves.
They invited the major to dinner the night Ann was arriving. And they told Ann that Roger was down in the library.
“How can he be?” asked Ann, in a voice that suggested rich red roses and golden honey; “he’s gone out to the house boat for two days to superintend getting it ready.”
“Well, he took a run in. Go along down and surprise him. He d >esn’t know you’re at home either.”
It was dusk in the library. The major had been smoking and reading. But just now he was lying back, daydreaming.
Suddenly from behind his chair slipped a fragrant
presence. A small, low cry and the presence was upon his knees, winding young, tender bare arms around his neck. A soft mouth, the softest he had ever kissed! Although surprised, he was equal to the occasion.
When the lights were switched on, their appearance synchronizing with a scream of mirth from the doorway, Ann said:
“You knew, and you kissed me back. You’d no business to do that.”
“Oh, Ann Seldridge, as if Frank hadn’t kissed you before,” from the twins.
“That was when I was a kiddie. I’m grown up. Besides, you kissed me a lot, more than Roger would have done, even.”
“I’d much rather be kissed by Frank than Roger,” pointed out Dora, and Flora endorsed her sister’s opinion. “You needn’t pretend to be so tragic, Ann. You know you liked it.”
“It was rather fun.” Suddenly she smiled and held out her hands to the major: “but let’s not tell Roger.” .
He fell in love with her at that moment.
“After all,” said Flora to Dora that night,
“I don’t see why we put up that silly joke. I think Frank was beginning to like me.”
“Well, it was your idea,” Dora spoke with some asperity. “I wasn’t keen about it. Now we’ll not exist for him. He’d asked me to go motoring tomorrow, too. But he’s forgotten all about it. He’s taking Ann.”
THERE was no use trying to describe Ann.
As Frank told her brother, Tom: “She’s
the personification of all the songs of Solomon.”
“Coming more or less from Solomon’s country I suppose you know.” Tom sang blithely a bit of doggerel concerning ‘other people’s wives.’
“I’m not that kind,”
Davis corrected Tom, with some dignity.
“No use you’re falling for Ann, though.
She’ll be other people’s wives soon.”
Lawson junior said with some acerbity:
“You and Roger are so much alike it might as well be you!” which was in retort for a remark of the major’s anent Flora and Dora.
D OGER had busi-*-'-ness affairs to straighten. He had gone away for a week or so. The wedding was to be in less than a fortnight. They were to take a prolonged honeymoon in Europe.
Their steamer had been delayed and would sail several days late. But Ann would not postpone the wedding as it was supposed to be very bad luck. So they had chosen some spot, presumably the houseboat, although they both denied that.
“Let’s pretend you’re Roger,” suggested Ann one evening as she and Frank walked up from the lake, “just for a few minutes. Pretend you and I are going to be married next Satúrday, eh?’
But the major was past pretending. He looked down at Ann. Met her half-laughing eyes, which suddenly sobered under his long gaze.
One week of Ann was/hiore than enough to make a fool of an older and wiser man than the major. And for one week he had been her constant cavalier, living in the same house.
“He used to hold her on his knee when she was a oaby,” Ann’s mother explained airily, as though that was quite enough to excuse anything.
“I can’t/play around with you any more,” Davis sajd, and saw Ann’s absurdly long lashes flutteiydown and lie on her creamy cheeks; her scarlet mouth droop. She stood still, perforce, did he. Looked at her hungrily, heart full of hopeless longing.
hkt yott »r>wmow»ty,'’-’ said-Anm—
“If I weren’t going to marry Roger I’d love you.” There was no reply for this. She was going to marry Roger, hence he could not entertain the alternative.
“When I think of you,” went on Ann, her eyes still lowered, “I see such wonderful things around you. Behind you, the sunset on the desert, and marching caravans, camels you know, swinging along. And in the sky— a whole host—soldiers I thii^k—maybe the ones who died over there—”
She nodded. “I felt I must tell you. I’ve dreamed of you like that over and over. And then I wake up and think about you—”
“How terribly good you are; not once holding my hand even—all the week. And we’ve been alone such a lot—and—I’ve wanted you to—”
He dug his own hands deep in the pockets of his
blazer. Her voice was a throbbing velvet whisper:
“Frank, we’ve known one another all our lives—why didn’t you come home—a—little—sooner?”
Then she was gone.
And here were Flora and Dora, Lawson Junior and Claude Rivers coming through the trees. Claude Rivers had been a college chum of Roger’s. He was doing the talking as they reached the major. Engrossed as the latter was, he could not fail to notice how strikingly handsome was the newcomer. Very brunette, with sleepy-lids and an indolent smile, and tanned almost to Hindu swarthiness.
“So I’d jolly well like to pay him back, the old blighter,’ Rivers was saying; “fancy the scare it gave my brother’s girl.”
“He says,” began Dora, thrusting her arm through Frank’s, “that Roger played the most dreadful trick on his brother when he came from England last year to be married. Helen, that’s his brother’s wife, had come down to the boat with a whole crowd. And what do you s’pose? Why Roger and two other men took poor Mr. Rivers into the cabin, tied him with a torn sheet, and sewed him all up in a piece of gunny sacking. Then they carried him out and laid him at Helen’s feet. I think the captain sHould have interfered—”
hat I can assist you in paying out ,awson junior. “Don’t you think major?”
s not listening. He said: “Quite.” gently removed Doit’s hand, and stared in the direction Ann had gone.
Said Lawson Junior: “Did you know that this here
Co itinued on page 34
“Any little way Roger,” suggested it’s coming to him, But the major w
Continued from page 17
sheik, Rivers, had been down in Mesopotamia, Frank?”
“Yes, 1 knew.” The major continued to gaze far over their heads toward the trees which had hidden Ann.
Lawson winked at Flora, “Where does it hurt the worst?” he asked kindly.
“Don’t be an ass.” Frank eyed him coldly and walked away.
“Oh, it’s Ann!” Dora and Flora gave the information with resigned sighs. “They all got like that. We’ll be glad when she’s married. Spoiling a perfectly fascinating darling like Frank for the rest of us.”
“She’s a wicked little flirt. But she can’t help it. She just adores being fallen in love with.” Flora spoke with charming candor. “You know, Tom and Frank have the double blue room, and Tom says that Frank groans in his sleep.
1 think it’s tragic.”
“Tummy-ache,” suggested Claude, “’s what’s the matter with that lad.”
rT'HE next morning Ann came down 4 late, and Frank was waiting for her. He was pale and grave. Met her at the foot of the stairs. Asked her to come into the morning room.
“I haven’t had my breakfast,” she suggested gently; “only a teeny bit of toast and tea in bed.”
So he paced up and down for twenty minutes until she reappeared. They were alone in the room. He came to meet her, stood looking down at her. “I’m going away today,” he said. “I can’t stick it, Ann.”
Two tears trembled on the tips of her lashes, as she raised her eyes. “Oh, please, Frank—”
“I must, Ann. It’s only decent.”
“I can’t bear it. And you’re to be best man, too.”
“Darling—” his voice was utterly miserable.
She stretched out two clasped hands to him. “Life is so long, and never again can we belike this. Frank,dear—don’tgo.”
He took her out to the lake.
Dora called to Flora. “Look, there she sits breaking his heart.” And to Tom: “Isn’t that Ann all over. Gets him out in the boat where she knows he can’t touch her, and then looks as lovely and provocative as a siren. It’s not cricket.”
“You mean to say you think she ought to let him make love to her?”
“If she’s going to flirt with him like that, she ought to give him a little satisfaction,” Dora said with heat.
This was beyond Tom. “Now look here”—he was beginning. But Dora had gone.
Ann was saying to Frank: “I can
picture it—the desert—and you and me all alone—the stars overhead . . . Try sometimes and think I am with you.” For the major had said he wras going back. He could not live in this part of the world and run the chance of meeting her, another man’s wife. He meant it, too. The hungry worship of his eyes brought the tears to her own. His last remnant of sense and discretion fled at the sight of her weeping. He spoke quick, hot words to her.
“I shouldn’t listen to you,” whispered Ann; “I know it’s wrong. If I hadn’t known you all my life—’’Ann inherited her philosophy from the maternal side of the house.
ROGER did not return until the day before the wedding. And up to the last, Ann and the major—well, even Mrs. Seldridge remonstrated with her daughter: “He looks so miserable, dear, and he eats next to nothing. Can’t you— can’t you do anything?”
“But mumsie, I can’t bear to hurt his feelings. I want to give him a little happiness while I can. He never kisses me or anything. He’s just terribly honorable!”
TT was a beautiful wedding. Crowds
of guests. Crowds of flowers. Crowds of presents. And Ann as lovely as a princess in a fairy tale.
The whole thing was almost more than the major could bear. But he went through it, somehow. And he looked so like Roger that the clergyman got a bit mixed at first, and there was a distinct hitch in the service.
Afterward, the people flocked to the house. There was a reception and a dance. He danced with Ann. She clung to him, “It’s goodbye,” she whispered.
Quite sick with grief, Frank took himself away. Changed his clothes. Packed his bag, and red-eyed, his teeth set, started for the outside, intending to get back to town. He would write from there. He could stand no more. Coming along the back hall, so that no one should see him, he stumbled. Skinned his shins. Went out limping.
It had got very dark, cloudy. The air was ominously still, presaging a thunder shower. All of the motors were around in the front.
He paused on the top step, peering about. At that moment, two men sprang from the shadows of the verandah; seized his arms. Flung a shawl overhis head.
At first he fought, kicking out valiantly, though blindly. Then he relaxed.
The truth dawned upon him with surprising swiftness. Of course, it was some nonsense of Claude Rivers, aided and abetted by Lawson, junior. They had been planning a revenge upon Roger, for his treatment of Claude’s brother. And they had mistaken him for the bridegroom. He had come out limping—
Inspired by the noble spirit of martyrdom for the sake of Ann, the major decided to submit himself to the practical jokers. Anything to save her anxiety. He allowed them to bundle him in a car and drive off. His hands and feet wTere securely tied, but he managed to wiggle his head a bit loose from the shawl.
The car stopped. He was taken by the feet and shoulders and carried somewhere. He heard them saying something about the Mercedes—the “gangway”— stepping gingerly, whispering injunctions to one another; occasionally stopping to laugh. Presently, he was laid dowm on a soft bed. Pillows under his head, and Rivers’ voice was saying:
“There now, old man, I’ve paid you out. So long! Accept our heartiest best wishes. Better hands than mine shall loose thy bonds.”
A door was closed and locked. He was alone.
From the sounds which came to him, he knew quite well where he must be. On Roger’s father’s house-boat. Well, that was all right; because the bridal couple were not coming to the houseboat.
Ann had said so; had gravely assured him that the house-boat was merely a blind to deceive the arch-plotters. But she trusted him. Darling little Ann! And by this time, thanks to his submitting himself, she and Roger were safely away and—oh, he could not bear to pursue the thought!
By dint of twisting and turning and the use of his teeth, he managed to get the shawl off his head. It was dark in the cabin. The scent of flowers very strong. He could see the square of closed window dimly. Then he began to try and loosen the silk scarf with which his hands were tied.
Voices outside. Tom’s voice. Laughing. “Well, so long, old girl. We’ll get word to you the minute we hear news of the Adriatic.”
Footsteps along the deck. Tom shouting from some distance off: “Come on
Claude, or I’ll not wait for ÿou.”
He could see the shadow of a head
Continued on page 36
Continued from paged 34
through the window, and here was
Claude talking. He suddenly recalled that Claude and Ann had been closeted in the conservatory two or three times lately, and that he had overheard Flora say to Dora! "Ann simply isn't sporting, and I'm just glad she’s going for good. We don’t have a bit of fun.” They did not realize how impossible it was not to fall in love with Ann, poor beautiful little Ann!
Who was on the Mercedes, anyway. He was much puzzled. He listened intently. He heard Claude say:
"He made very little fuss. I suppose he knew it was no use; might as well submit with a good grace. Here’s the key to the cabin.” Then his voice became vibrantly tender. "You're sure it hasn’t worried you?”
Ann! Ann speaking in her velvet tones! Ann!
"You’ve been sweet and thoughtful of me. And Roger did deserve it.”
The major sat bolt upright, his mouth agape.
Claude's next remarks were not audible, but Ann’s were. She said:
"It's been wonderful meeting you. As soon as I saw you and knew what you had been through, where you had been down in that Nile country, I began to see such strange pictures around you. The sunset on the desert, and caravans—camels you know, swinging along. And in the sky, a whole host, soldiers I think, maybe the men who died over there.” Her words trailed off in a sigh.
Once again Claude’s words were for her alone.
“You must try to think of me sometimes,” Ann’s response came; “when you go back , and are out there all alone, with only the stars. Try to think that I am with you, comforting you-”
“By gad!” the major hissed to himself. “By gad, can you beat that!”
“If only I had met you sooner—’’Ann was saying as they moved off.
TT was very quiet now, except for the -*• distant honking of an impatient motor horn. Probably Tom waiting for Claude. Davis was working hard at the scarf around his hands. And thinking hard. What the mischief was happening! Why was Ann on the Mercedes? Where on the unhappy earth was Roger, the bridegroom! Just let him get those damnable things off his hands. ‘Sunset on the desert’—‘Marching caravans’—‘A lone with the stars’—‘If she had only met him sooner!’
At last his hands were free. He sat there for a moment. Dazed. Trying to readjust his thoughts, his feelings.
The wind had risen and was shrilling around the deck. A storm coming up, evidently. Where had Ann and Rivers gone? The honking of the motor horn had ceased.
Well, the first thing for him o do was to get off that houseboat. the major knew little or nothing of any sort of boat. His nautical education was nil. He could row, after a fashion, and swim if he had to, but that ended it.
There was a noise at the door. Someone putting a key in the lock, fumblingly.
Then the light switched on.
The major had taken out his knife and was about to cut the cord on his ankles, but the light dazzled him. He threw his arm across his eyes, peered blinkingly from under itr The room was full of roses, pink and white. The lamp had a rose-covered shade. Rose-spattered chintz on the furniture, draping the bed. Then he saw Ann.
Just within the doorway, in a rosepink cloak. Her sleek, little head bare. Her large eyes gravely sweet. “Roger,” she whispered.
He slashed at the bonds on his ankles. Stood up, still shading his eyes.
“I’ve been down to the dining room, having just a teeny, weeny bit of salad and things. I was so hungry. And I persuaded Claude to have a few sand-
wiches. He daren’t meet you, of course, and he is feeling so sad—” She sighed, not looking at him. “But he’s gone now,” she sighed again. Stood there, holding her cloak together.
Suddenly the Mercedes quivered and seemed to swing heavily.
“What’s the matter with this boat?” asked Davis grimly.
She started; stared. He stood very straight before her, like a soldier at attention. Then she gave a small scream. Backed up against the closed door. “You-you-where-where is Roger?”
It suddenly occurred to Major Frank that Ann deserved to be quite as frightened as she looked. He said: “I neither know nor care where Roger is.”
“0—o—oh,” Ann quavered. “What have you done with him? How did you get here, on this boat, in this room?” Evidently, she believed that he had planned this ghastly business. Deliberately planned to get rid of Roger and take his place. Well, let her! Just let her think that for a few moments. He folded his arms, compressed his lips and looked down at her.
“Why didn’t you tell me the truth about coming to the houseboat,” he asked her. “You denied that you were to be here.”
“I—I was afraid that you—that you— Well, you know, you said you were desperate. I thought it best you shouldn’t know—I thought—Oh, Frank, please, where is Roger? I—I don’t like this a bit.”
“When did you see him last?”
“I haven’t seen him at all. Not since the wedding. He was to drive around the long way in the big Rolls. And Tom came with me. Roger was to join me here. But Claude met us—Tom and me—at the jetty, and he said that he and junior had brought Roger, that Roger was quite safely tucked up in this room.
I—I—thought it was funny. So did Tom. But now, light beginning to dawn upon her apparently, “Oh I see it all! You purposely let them tie you up, and bring you here instead of Roger. Claude said you didn’t make any fuss at all. Then what— where—what have you done with Roger?” Again the Mercedes gave an ominous quiver. The wind was blowing more loudly, rattling the window and the door.
“What ails this confounded houseboat?” asked Davis irrelevantly, “Does it always act like this?”
Ann stalked up to him like an angry fairy. “What have you done with my husband?”
“I haven’t done anything with him, Ann. What’s that? It seems to me this houseboat’s moving.”
Ann stood still, her head up, listening intently. Then:
“It is It is moving. So you’ve cut us loose.” For a moment she seemed past speech. Stared at him, her hands clasped tightly over her slight breast.
MAJOR FRANK’S heart seemed to turn over sickeningly. He was absolutely unfamiliar with the river. But he had always understood that houseboats were not meant to travel without a tow to keep them in order. And there were rapids, probably, submerged rocks, perhaps falls.
“Ann,” he said, trying to speak quietly, “if.this boat is loose, I didn’t do it.”
It was quite plain that she did not believe him.
Suddenly, theré was a crack of thunder that ended in a half a hundred reverberations. Rain slapped against the window. Ann screamed.
“Stop that,” cried Frank, completely unnerved for the moment. “Keep your head. I’ll go and see what can be done.” He went out. Certainly, the Mercedes was en route somewhere; the water was rippling against her sides, and occasionally a gust of wind sent a wave on the low deck. He hurried back to Ann. As he entered, the lightning flashed and the thunder followed in short, ear-splitting blasts. And Ann screamed again.
The rain was dripping from his hair. He was sick with fear for them both. In this storm, whirling down the unknown river, anything might happen. And where in God’s sea or earth or sKy was Roger?
“Is there a dinghy on this houseboat.7’' he asked; “or anything I could maka a raft of?”
For answer she attempted to dash past him. He caught her arm, “Where are you going? I tell you it’s pouring rain and we re adrift.”
Once more the lightning, the roar of the aftermath, and Ann screaming.
Then the lights went out.
“My God,” said the Major.
“Let me go,” cried Ann?
He picked her up; deposited her on the bed, “You stay there!”
“I will not!” She struggled under his hands. “I will not be found on board this boat with you. Roger—everybody knows you’re in love with me—”
“Just a minute,” shouted the major. If they were going to drown at least she should know the truth first.. “I’m not in love with you. Absolutely not. I was. That’s why I let those fools kidnap me instead of Roger. I thought I was sparing you. I’d have done anything for you, but that’s all past. You cured me. You and Claude there, outside the window. ‘Sunset on the desert.’ ‘Hosts in the heavens.’ ‘If you’d only met him sooner.’ I’ve been a fool Ann, but I’ve got over it. I’d give every cent I possess if your husband was here.”
Ann had ceased to struggle. He heard her gasp incredulously:
“You’re—not—in—love—with—me?” “Absolutely not. What’s more I think you’re a poor sport. Here we are drifting to God knows what end, and you’re about as much help as an infant. Junior told me you were plucky, a lot he knew—”
He left her then.
TT was still raining outside, but the summer storm had nearly spent itself. The lightning moving off toward the south. Clouds breaking. It seemed to him that for the moment they were stationary. By the aid of matches he began to examine the houseboat. But, presently, the moon sailing into view, he had no further need of them. There was a deck all around. Leaning over the stern, he saw an anchor. It was the work of but a few moments before it was plunged into the river bed. There was another anchor at the bow.
Enormously pleased with himself, the major lit his pipe and returned to Ann. The room was empty.
He called her. No reply. He called her an endless number of times. Merely the dying wind and the rippling water answered him. He swore to himself.
He climbed a ladder to the roof. Found half a dozen lanterns in a neat compartment, all ready for emergency. He lit every one; placed two of them port, two starboard, and, carrying two, went down to the dining room. He had not realized before how hungry he was. There was a delicious supper set out. Champagne, too.
Feeling much better presently, he instituted another search for Ann. A tern in either hand he looke'1 r - ■ i -
end of the boat to the ;¡¡ f • :
the roof to the galley.
a final desperate searc..:.t - J
—under the table—under the bedcalling:
“Ann, I say Ann, where are you? This isn’t sporting. Have a heart, Ann!” and similar abjurations and entreaties.
He picked up her cloak from the bed. Then started. Muttered an exclamation. Picked up something else. Her little pale, amber, satin frock. Her golden shoes, her golden stockings, still holding the curve of her slim limbs.
He held them before him, blinking his eyes, his face slowly blanching. What had Ann done? What terrible thing had happened?
While he stood there, afraid to think, there r-arnc to his ears the welcome ‘chug, chug’ of a launch. He rushed to the deck. I. ctned over.
Brave red and green lights dancing toward him over the water. The low, white shape of a speed boat. Standing figures. Voices shouting.
“Hullo there, major!” “Avast there, Frank!” “Ship ahoy!” “Throw out the life line!”
Tom Junior and Claude Rivers were in the boat. They tied up to the Mercedes. Clambered aboard like monkeys.
“Good old major.” “Tough luck.” “No end sorry.” And Claude: “I’m going to give you a box of Coronas, fifty to the box.” They seized his arms, patted him on the back.
Tom began to elucidate, leaning against the deck-rail: “It was all a beastly mix-up. You see they thought you were Roger—”
“Don’t you s’pose I know that,” Frank flung off their hands. “You silly fat-heads! Have you—”
“Hold on, Frank,” broke in Tom. “Don’t get shirty. After all, it was only a joke, and not meant for you at all. Why Roger’s not the least bit mad, thinks it no end funny.”
“He does, eh?” The major stared aghast. “That’s because he doesn’t know. Have--”
“Listen a minute,” interrupted Tom again, “You got to hear me out. It was your own fault for being so chivalrous. Not speaking up and letting’em know it was you. Claude here—-ÿ”
“I wouldn’t have had such a thing happen, major, not for a hundred pounds,” began Rivers, the grin on his face utterly belying his words, and infuriating Frank.
“You fellows don’t seem to realize—” once more he essayed to speak, and once more Tom shouted him down.
“You and Roger between you balled things up. Instead of going out the side door as Claude and Junior expected, Roger slid off the roof. And you have to sneak out the back and get caught. And instead of Roger getting in the Rolls, which of course the boys had hidden, behind the spinney, he tumbled into his own little sedan, which was short of gas. So, half-way through the old road, the darn thing stalls on him. He had to walk five miles—”
“I don’t give a continental damn how far he had to walk; what I want to know is, have you—-—?”
“And, of course,” pursued Tom, “when I arrived safely at the jetty with Ann, and Claude told us Roger was locked up here in the cabin, we thought everything was O.K. If we hadn’t, d’you s’pose we’d have cut the ropes?”
“Sure. She could only drift to the shallows where you are now. There isn’t more than six feet of water in the river at the highest, and the Mercedes is steady as a church. Ann knows all that. Of course she wouldn’t be scared. Mind you, if we’d known the dynamo was going back on you—but that had nothing to do with setting you adrift. You see Roger had been tinkering with the dynamo for days and--”
“Oh shut-up. r:T. y-r"" J’.c T*•■'ice rose oan bvsfp-w : ! O-
t'n name V ho i-" « —r -f y »
lí"'-1'erin-T id! Vs tel! me— ha\ r yc u see;. Ann
For a few moments they all stared at him speechlessly. Then Tom:
“Didn’t she tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“Why she left the Mercedes an hour ago. She and Roger have gone into town. A wireless came to the house that their boat is sailing tomorrow on schedule after all. So we jumped into the Rolls, and tore out here to let him and Ann know. There they were at the jetty, Ann wrapped in his overcoat. She’d just come ashore.”
“Come ashore,” cried the major aghast. “Sure! She swam.”