FICTION

Butts’ Elixir

LOUIS ARTHUR CUNNINGHAM October 15 1932
FICTION

Butts’ Elixir

LOUIS ARTHUR CUNNINGHAM October 15 1932

Butts’ Elixir

The colonel wanted no inventor for a son-in-law but—there are inventors and inventors

LOUIS ARTHUR CUNNINGHAM

SALLY JENNER, waiting patiently in the library, stiffened when she heard the front door bang, squared her slim shoulders, and took on an expression that might have been seen in the days of Nero on the face of some fair martyr who heard the clang of iron gates as the lions were let loose. The lion in this case, however, was her fond, irascible parent, Colonel Alfred Jenner, D.S.O., and had he been endowed with a good tail to whisk about and a little bit more in the way of a mane, the illusion would have been complete.

“So!” he said, giving Sally a bloodshot glance. “You’re home, eh?”

“Yes, father.”

“And I can’t trust you away from my side for a week but what you fall in love with some confounded half-wit, eh? I can’t trust my own daughter, my own flesh and blood. Can’t trust any one, by gad! Here I trusted old Stoakley in that matter of Glebe Farm, which he is agent for. He promised not to dispose of it without letting me know, so that I could raise the amount of my offer. And what does he do? He—he gives a five-year lease of it to some fool or other who will doubtless put up “No Trespassing” or “Beware of the Dog” signs and keep us from using the short-cut to the golf links. Then, on top of that, my sister, your Aunt Alice, writes me that she is sending you home because you have got beyond her control and begin to fancy yourself in love with some impossible lout. By George, Sally, if you were two years younger I’d have you over my knee. Falling in love, eh! With—with—what was it, Alice said? ‘A person who displays not even the faintest vestiges of ordinary intelligence.’ Who is this person? What is he, anyway?”

“He is an inventor, dad.”

“He—inventor! Did you say inventor?”

“Yes, dad.”

“But, my dear girl! An inventor! In heaven’s name, what has he invented?”

“Well—” Sally twined slender brown fingers together

and looked miserable, though brave enough withal. “He invented a machine that the radio people took up.”

“He did, eh! What sort of machine?”

“It imitates the roar of a lion, and—”

The roar that Colonel Jenner then gave utterance to would have backed any lion-roaring machine right out of a studio.

“Impossible! Look here, Sally, we’ve had enough of this nonsense. Your aunt very wisely sent you away from the vicinity of this—this talented young man. I’ll have no more of it. A machine that imitates the roar of a lion! Well, by gad, can you beat that! And what, pray, is the name of this young genius?”

Sally’s long lashes trembled. She gazed sorrowfully out of the window', across the smooth lawns and over the tree tops to where the gables of Glebe Farm showed among the maples.

“His name is Herbert J. Butts.”

“Herb-!” The colonel took a step toward her, then stopped and stood rigid. Sally gazed at him in alarm. A swift crimson wras spreading from his neck to the line of his thinning iron-grey hair. “Did—did you say Herb?

“Herbert J. Butts. But he’s awfully clever, dad, and handsome, and I’m sure—”

“I’m sure that I’ll settle that young fiend the moment he sets foot in this community. Of all the confounded cheek. Do you know—no, I see you don’t. Well, 111 tell you—this Herbert J. Butts is the person who has leased the Glebe Farm for five years. He is to be our neighbor, a fresh thorn in my side. But I tell you one thing—if ever he sets foot on my land or if ever I find you speaking to him, his heirs and assigns will collect the royalties on the lion-roaring machine. I’ll drop him in his tracks.

Sally, in the new-found joy of learning that Herbert Butts had made good his promise of keeping near her, paid little attention to her father’s homicidal mutterings. Good old Herbert! It certainly had not taken him long to ensure his presence by her side. Of course, her father would

prove a mightier stumbling block than Aunt Alice, but such love as hers and Herbert’s was not to be cramped by a battalion of retired colonels. In a short while Sally felt happy, she began to sing, she was glad to be home. Wonderful to think that the dreary journey from Toronto had brought her. not to permanent desolation, as she had thought it would, but even closer than before to the side of her beloved.

THAT night a light shone from the gables of Glebe Farm. Sally saw it with eager, happy eyes; the colonel gazed upon it as upon the bivouac fires of a hated foe. figured callously the range and elevation of that light, and longed for the boys of the old artillery brigade which he once commanded. An inventor—in love with Sally, with his daughter — a presumptuous young w-hippersnapper, leasing the property that he had long planned to purchase ! Well, this maker of lion-roaring machines would soon find out with whom he had to deal. Soon Glebe Farm would be once more upon the market, and Sally free from the danger of marrying anybody by the preposterous name of Butts.

The colonel, over his pipe and his nightcap, thought with

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Butts’

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relish of various tortures he had seen and heard of in the Far East, and pictured Herbert Butts writhing under hideous torments. To snatch the Glebe Farm away from a man who had long looked on it as his own was bad enough, to presume to marry that man's daughter was still worse, but to have invented a machine that made sounds like a lion roaring . . .

Colonel Jenner got up and strode about his den. He paused at last in front of the pier glass he kept there, and moved close to it to study his hair. He frowned. No use continuing to lie about it, no use trying to fool himself—the iron-grey and grizzled locks that were his pride were getting thin and scant. He had seen Clara Woodburn. widow of his old chum, Pat Woodburn, of the Buffs, looking at his hair only last night with —yes, it was indeed regret. Then he had seen Clara with Tom Annesly, whose hair was still thick and lustrous.

"By gad,” he muttered, “if I lose my hair, I'll lose Clara.”

So he applied himself to the rubbing cn of sundry tonics and revivers, of which he had one of the most complete collections east of Montreal. He had tried everything on the market, also a lot of private recipes obtained from dog fanciers and barbers, but still the old hair grew scant and scantier, and once Sally had been in danger of the firing squad for an unhappy allusion to the thin grey line.

The hair tonics applied. Colonel Jenner betook himself to bed and his usual sound and dreamless sleep. He was still sleeping and good for several hours more when, in the dewy morn, a little past the hour of six, a slim tow-headed figure clad in a green jersey dress, slipped out of the house by the rear door and strode briskly across the fields in the direction of Glebe Farm.

Sally Jenner walked through the dewpearled grass, careless of wet shoes and stockings, with one of those “year's at the spring and day’s at the morn” airs. The robin’s fluty note was sweet in her ears, the buzz of the bumble bee sounded like the bourdon of a bass in some sweet symphony of Nature. Opening buds and bird song, sparkling dew and nectar-laden air—and Herbert.

SMOKE was rising blue in the morning air from the low kitchen of Glebe Farm; and as Sally, having made her way through the gnarled trees and tall grass of the orchard, came out into the dooryard, a sun-burned visage with dark-rimmed glasses and a cheery smile, partly obliterated by lather and a thatch of brown hair in hopeless disorder, was thrust from an upstairs window.

“Ah!” said Herbert. “Beauty has awakened from rest. Gosh, Sally, I’m glad to see you. I’ll be down in a jiffy.”

In a jiffy he was down, one side of his face shaven, the lather in process of removal from the other side with a towel. Instantly there was a small dab of it on Sally Jenner’s nose as Herbert, with true inventive genius, discovered a new way of kissing a little dimple under her chin.

“God’s in his heaven,’’ announced Herbert, a look of sheer worshipping ecstasy in the bright brown eyes behind the inventor’s spectacles.

“Mmm!” said Sally, perching atop the kitchen table. “Maybe. But if you think all’s right with the world, Herbert, you’re crazy.”

“Why, what’s the matter with the world? Here I am living next door to you; the old inventions are coming on apace —or will be by this afternoon; and you love me, don’t you?”

“Yes to all that.” smiled Sally, with the smile of maternal affection that Herbert awakened even in the bosom of nineteen. “But here’s what dad is on your trail.” Herbert didn’t seem impressed. Briskly he attached the little plate stove’s plug to a socket, and briskly threw bacon in his frying pan.

"Well?"

“Well, he’s furious. You see, he planned to buy this place, and when he learned you had leased it—”

“Ah. yes. But it belongs to young Toby Allingham, a pal of mine, and Toby gave orders to Mr. Stoakley, his agent, to let me have it. The colonel's sore about that, eh? And, of course, about me. I didn't go over so big with your Aunt Alice. But is it fair,

I ask you as man to man, Sally —is it fair for your illustrious parent to condemn me, | sight unseen, just because I'm an inventor and love his daughter? Does he know of the success of my lion sound-effect apparatus?” “Yes.” nodded Sally vehemently. “Oh, yes, he knows about that.”

“Well, it's nothing,” said Herbert deprecatingly. "Nothing at all.”

Sally didn’t tell him it was considerably ; less than nothing with the colonel.

“I am now,” continued Herbert, turning the bacon dexterously, “working on something big something that will place you and me, fair damsel, beyond the pale of worry. I won’t tell you what it is until I have obtained results. It may seem, even then, a simple and a humble thing to have emanated from the same brain that reproduced the roar of the Nubian lion with such success. However, life and fortunes are builded on simple things —even as is happiness. How about a spot of breakfast, Sally?” ¡ Together they sat down and consumed lusty quantities of bacon, eggs and coffee. After which, Herbert showed her his workshop, which was in a long greenhouse adjoining the kitchen and which Herbert i described as ideal for his purposes. Already he had unpacked sundry cases of retorts, test tubes, jugs, jars, bottles and tools, and the place was beginning to look like the junk shop which an inventor’s lair should j look like.

“You’ll drop in often, eh?” asked Herbert, sniffing at a greenish liquid in a jar and smiling at Sally over the rim of his glasses. “Please do. Nothing like a bit of inspiration, Sally, and I always feel most inspired after I’ve seen you. I gather it isn't a propitious time for me to call on you?”

“Not exactly,” said Sally with a grin. “Unless you can invent a sweet pair of wings before you decide to come.”

Herbert sighed. Obstacles, always obstacles. His family frowned on his being an inventor; they’d wanted him to be a lawyer. Now Sally's father frowned on his loving Sally. But just wait till he did something big, something far bigger than the lion-roarer. They’d take it all back then. He and Sally would tool around in a costly car and splash mud on people.

“I must go now, Herbert,” said Sally. “Dad was still asleep, but he will soon wake up. I’m forbidden to see you, you know.”

“You are, eh? But you came anyway. Good girl !”

“I’ll be over every morning, but I’m afraid there won’t be much chance of seeing you through the day.”

Herbert bowed his head in mock resignation.

“Oke,” said he. “I’ll slave away here in the workshop, Sally. And when, as you wander alone about the pleasant fields and woodlands of your native heath, you chance | to cast a thought in old Herbert’s direction, remember He laid a hand on Sally’s ; upturned head. “Remember that he is j inventing things for you.”

With which, Herbert kissed lightly the dried soap on the tip of Sally’s nose and sent her on her homeward way.

THE COLONEL still slept. Sally got safely into the house and greeted the retired warrior in mauve pyjamas when he came down to breakfast. The colonel surveyed her with much appreciation.

. “Dev’lish fine lookin’ girl, you are. Sally.” he announced. “Don't go throwing yourself away on inventors. Do you—er—do you

I think my hair is growing in thicker on the top there?"

Sally made an inspection. The colonel waited impatiently, tapping the tablecloth with uneasy fingers.

“Well?"

“I’m afraid not, dad."

“I, Ux>. Those infernal tonics aren’t worth a curse— not one of ’em. They’re not worth the bottles they come in. Do you mean to tell me that our vaunted civilization has advanced, has amounted, to so little that there’s not a single hair restorer on the market that amounts to anything?”

Sally said she didn’t know. The colonel ate his breakfast and devoured his newspaper in ominous silence. He meditated writing to the editor on the subject of hair revivers that promised everything but accomplished nothing. He composed the letter mentally as he ate his bacon, but finally decided against it. It w'asn’t his job after all. Some day baldheaded and semi-bald and soon-to-be-bald men would arise in a body and drown the tonic people in vats of their own concoctions. Colonel Jenner devoutly hoped he would live to help give the vats a stir around.

After breakfast, he took Sally and hied him to the golf links.

There was a short-cut, much used by the Jenner family, through the northeastern end of Glebe Farm, and thither the colonel marched. Now, sundry milk boys, cow herds, grocers’ men and the like had already that morning traversed the path, which also passed close by the greenhouse where Herbert J. Butts toiled feverishly for the advancement of science and the uplift of the world. The milk boys, cow herds and so on, were addicted to whistling and singing admirable enough accomplishments in their way. but not at all conducive to good inventing.

Herbert had chafed under this annoyance, and alxiut an hour previously had betaken himself to the village to obtain a means of ensuring his privacy. He had visited the village paint shop and the Canby Kennels. Thus, wher the colonel and Sally arrived at the entrance to the path, they were greeted with a large sign reading, “Beware of the Deg.”

Colonel Jenner stared at it in bitter silence.

“So!” he said at length. “Even as I foresaw. A blulT, no doubt. I’ll call it.”

With a sneer of contempt, the colonel strode over to the sign post, uprooted it and lugged it toward the bushes that guarded a small pond, bent on heaving it in. He felt something restraining his progress, and heard simultaneously a muffled scream from Sally. He glanced around and saw. tied by a long rope to the sign-post, a ! remarkably large and sour looking bulldog, who, yanked from slumber in the tall grass, was now selecting, with rolling eye. a choice spot in the seat of Colonel Jenner’s plusfours.

The dog started forward at a slow amble, but his acceleration was marvellous. The colonel stcod his ground for a moment, then ran to Sally, and both of them tied along the path, the bulldog, dragging his sign after him. in hot pursuit. Herbert, at the dixxof his workshop, saw first the panting figure of Colonel Jenner rushing from the shrubbery.

”1 say ” began Herbert.

“You—” puffed the colonel: and kept right on. shaking his fist at Herbert.

Next came Sally.

“Can’t stop. Herbert. Say. you’ve done it now —plenty.”

“What—?” began Herbert.

Then came the dog, his jaw’s slavering, his progress much hampered by the “Beware of the Dog” sign.

“Oh, gosh!” muttered Herbert. “Holy

smoke!”

He collared the dog, locked him in the shed, and went back to his inventing with a heavy and troubled heart.

Colonel Jenner sat on the clubhouse verandah for a half-hour, drinking lemon squash and biting his mustache. Things had come to a pretty pass. He pondered

ways and means of ridding the community of Herbert J. Butts. It must be done.

In grim and awful silence he played around with Sally, but his game was terrible, and this, too, he laid at the door of Herbert J. Butts. But he didn’t swear, didn’t snap any club shafts, even as he bungled shot after shot. Only, at the eighteenth hole, he flung down his putter, turned to Sally and said with terrible calm: "Daughter, I’d sooner see you in the churchyard yonder, than married to that that—”

Then he strode away.

SALLY arrived bright and early next morning at the Glebe Farm. The cheery sounds of honest toil, thumpings and hammerings, came from the greenhouse workshop. At her hail they ceased, and the head of Herbert J. Butts was poked through an open pane in the roof. Herbert smiled at her and said:

"Come on in, Flower of the Dawn.”

Sally came. The place was in a worse state of chaos than it had been yesterday. The bulldog was sleeping on Herbert’s coat, which was draped over a pile of books and scientific magazines in the corner. A spirit lamp burned, and above it a retort bubbled and gave off hellish fumes.

The alchemist greeted his beloved with the warmth of long parting.

"Colonel pretty waxy. Sally?”

“Waxy! He—he told me he’d rather see me slumbering beneath the churchyard tree than—than married to you.”

“Tush! Don’t mind him. That’s all on account of Pansy.”

“Of —of whom?”

“Her.” Herbert jerked a thumb at the bulldog.

“Well, she helped,” agreed Sally. “What in the name of all that’s good possessed you to tie her up to that sign post?”

“Privacy,” said Herbert. “The invention is nearly finished, very nearly finished. But we cannot and will not have interruptions— what the . . . !”

At that moment a golf ball in parabolic flight sailed through an open pane in the greenhouse roof, broke a big retort, and sent some bluish-green fluid dripping and splashing over everything but principally into a large tank or bath of some yellow fluid that was set on the floor beneath it.

“Oh, gosh!” said Herbert. “How in blazes-

“Some early golfer.” frowned Sally. “Any harm done?”

"Can’t tell yet, till I have a kx>k around.” Herbert was having a look around, and Sally was watching him and helping him pick up glass, when there came an interruption in the shape of a single word —

"So!"

They faced the door and, in the door, st(xxl Colonel Jenner with a murderous looking midiron clutched in his hands.

“My ball,” he said, “came in here.”

"Yes, sir,” said Herbert, "and smashed a retort.”

"I,” said the colonel, “would not feel bad if it broke something else. How dare you, sir. entice my daughter here? How dare you. after the insults and indignities you have heaped on me? I why a man would be justified in

The colonel, as he talked, was swinging the midiron and advancing on Herbert, while Sally watched with terror-filled eyes. Still another pair of eyes watched, too; the misanthropic eyes of the doughty Pansy.

A sepulchral growl brought the colonel down from the clouds of wrath just as Pansy lumbered off her resting-place and came toward him on business bent. Colonel Jenner gazed at her and remembered. He was also a strategist. He ran, and dosed the door behind him.

Silence then, broken only by the slow i drip of the bluish liquid ; silence and sadness. ' “Sunk !” announced Herbert.

“’Fraid so." murmured Sally. “I—I j think I'd better scram out of here. Herbert, j I'm going to catch it, I know. Butbut i I'll see you one way or another.”

“Good girl. All is not lost yet, eh, Sally?” “No, indeed.” I

“Good-by. Sally.”

“Good-by. Herbert. Good-by, Pansy; I suppose you mean well.”

SALLY put in a painful morning. Fortunately the colonel’s feelings had been outraged beyond the point where mere words or even profanity could give adequate utterance to them. But the session ended with an injunction to pack up and be ready to start at noon.

“Where to. dad?”

“Wilderness Lodgeuntil you come to your senses.”

Sally’s heart descended to the soles of her golf shoes. Wilderness Lodgewith no telephone, no communication with the outside world save by horse and wagon over trails so rough that even a respectable mountain goat wouldn’t tackle them. Herbert would never find her there.

But orders were orders. Sally packed and was ready when her father tapped on her door. He led the way downstairs, gathering up a bottle of hair tonic that some one. probably his man, Keator, had left on the table in the hall, and shoving it in his pocket. He led the way to the waiting car and they began their long journey. Sally's eyes misted as, over her shoulder, she watched the retreating gables of Glebe Farm and thought of Herbert, alone and unhappy.

At Wilderness Lodge, the days, for Sally, passed as in a prison. Her father fished and hunted and said no word of Herbert, no word of going home. Keator. silent and unobtrusive always, did the cooking and performed the household chores. In the mornings and evenings the colonel applied his hair tonic. Sally moved as in a dream: unhappy, lonely, hopeless of the future. She didn’t even look when, one morning, her father, in front of the mirror, shouted: “By Jove! Look here, Sally; just Ux>k here!”

Uninterested, Sally came to his side.

“My hair!” he said. "Look growing in like grass on a lawn.”

“So so it is,” said Sally without much enthusiasm.

And so it was, becoming thick and lustrous, regaining all its old strength. Colonel Jenner was charmed. He called Keator, who shared his enthusiasm and admitted he had noticed the improvement and, having taken the liberty of trying a little of it, had found his own scanty locks increased and multiplied.

“Great stuff!” The colonel was more excited than Sally had ever seen him. He had forgotten Herbert, forgotten everything in the light of this new discovery. He fetched the bottle and studied the label.

“Ringroot Reviver, eh? Where did you get it, Keator? I picked it up off the hall table as we were going away. Dashed careless of you to leave such precious stuff lying about.”

“But I didn’t, sir. Some of the other servants must have done it, sir.”

"Well, it’s all gone now. We’re going home for more.”

Home they went. At the first sizeable town the colonel went shopping for Ringroot Reviver.

“Been off the market for twenty years, sir,” the druggist told him. “It was never any good anyway.”

The colonel told him he was crazy, and they continued on their way.

“Can’t understand it, Keator. The man probably knew his business, but if it’s been off the market that long, where did this come from?”

Wilkins, the housemaid, supplied the answer when confronted with the bottle.

“That was sent over from Glebe Farm, sir—from Mr. Butts. A young boy brought

it. and said Mr. Butts would call Miss Sally on the phone about it. He did call, but you and Miss Sally had gone.”

“I—I see." said the colonel.

Sally’s eyes were wide with rapture.

"It—it must be his new invention, dad.” She clasped her hands together. “Oh. and it’s a success.”

"By gad. it is!” agreed the colonel. “That young man’s a wonder—a wonder. Why ; the devil didn’t he explain to me what he 1 was doing! Why. there’s a fortune in that : stuff. I'll back him to the limit. Come on, ¡ Sally; we’re going to Glebe Farm.”

T_TERBERT. hearing their car in the yard, poked his head through the greenhouse roof, promptly pulled it in again and chained Pansy to the wall. Herbert was feeling low. Things weren’t going so well, and in the arrival of Sally and the colonel he sensed fresh trouble.

But Colonel Jenner's face was genial and smiling. He gave Herbert a cordial hand and clapped him on the shoulder.

“My boy,” he said. “I congratulate you.

I do, indeed. I am proud to know you, proud to think I may know you tetter, eh?” The colonel glanced from Herbert to the blushing and happy face of his only child.” j "I—gosh, that’s great of you, sir. I'm | glad —”

"Not a word, Butts. I have still more to say.” The colonel produced the Ringroot Reviver bottle and stuck it under Herbert’s nose.

“Used it,” he said. “Wonderful ! Wonderful, Butts. By gad, Butts, you have something here.”

“You—you tried it, sir?” Herbert’s face lighted. His eyes, behind the spectacles, blinked excitedly. “And found it good?” “Marvellous! I’ll put up any sum you name. I’ll organize a company, to put it on the market. You just happened to use this empty Ringroot bottle, eh?”

“Yes, sir. And and you really found it good !”

“Good ” Colonel Jenner smiled faintly. “It’s a gold mine. That’s the way with you inventors never know how good your : stuff is.”

“It—it restored the old lustre, sir?” “Beautifully.”

“And it was easy to apply and -and didn’t catch the dust?”

“Not a bit of it. Not a bit of it. We'll | have it in every drug store in the land inside a month. Butts’ Elixir—that’s what we’ll call it.”

“Butts’ Elixir!” whispered Herbert and Sally in awed chorus, their hands coming together, clasping warmly.

“In every barbershop, my boy. We have in Butts’ Elixir, by gad, the greatest hair tonic the world has ever known!”

"The—the greatest—” Herbert leaned weakly against Sally.

The colonel smiled.

"I’ll leave you two alone to talk over things, you know -weddings and the like, eh?”

He went out, hugging the empty bottle. Sally pressed her cheek against Herbert’s. His cheek was cold. She gazed at him in alarm.

“What is it? Oh, what’s the matter, Herbert? You—you haven’t lost the formula?”

“Oh, no. I can make an ocean of the stuff.”

"Then what—what is it, dear?”

“I--” said Herbert with a wan smile. “Sally, I was trying to make something else.”

“Hush. Don’t ever tell it. It is a grand hair tonic. Both he and Keator swear by it. It’s the most wonderful hair tonic.”

“It would be,” sighed Herbert. “I intended it for floor polish.”