DETOUR TO MANDALAY
It's a crying shame for radio's future baritone to be sacrificed on the altar of farm boarders—but hark!
FRANK LEON SMITH
LANKY young Goulding Harlow had almost everything it takes to be an authentic baritone. While he lacked the deep gorge at the back of the neck which is standard equipment with the skinnier liaritones and basses, his ears and his Adam’s apple were outstanding, and there was joy in his voice and sun in his soul. Goulding would rather sing than not, and he could laugh and mean it when he was at song.
Hut, instead oí a contract, a penthouse, a press agent and a great love to warm his notes, which a baritone should have to make himself complete, Goulding Harlow had a farm and no job of work, and he had to warm his notes himself.
The farm was doubly his. since there was no one else to leave it to. and since it had been promised to him when he was christened Goulding, for his grandfather, instead of Bertram, as scheduled. He liad no practical use for a farm; he roared with rage when he learned it was his; and he had come back to sell off everything for cash.
Now, on this summer’s morn, having escaped Hester Styles, the last of his grandfather’s hired girls, who felt he should hang onto the place, he was in no mood for another session with gnarled Chaytor Brookins, who was puttering about the cowyard. and who would be sure to hold forth hopefully on what a man could take and do with this farm. Accordingly he set off through the wwds behind the millpond, to have a last look about the premises where he had sjxnt so many happy hours as a boy.
For over an hour he roamed alxiut. then he realized it was time for him to go to the village and see the printer who was to get out the auction handbills.
He came to the brook that led to the millpond, and thought suddenly of his sacred ravine place where there was a deep clear pool, which had always been his personal, private pool. As he approached it, he decided to have a last swim, and began to haul off his shirt. Then he put it on hurriedly.
Someone was down there, singing at the bath, and a latent old-squire resentment roused in Goulding and caused him to bawl, “Well, this is an imposition, 1 must say!” Then, trying for hostile rural accents. “Private property! No trespassing!”
A girl scrambled up the side of the ravine. An angry barelegged girl, wearing unlaced sports shoes and a cotton dress, with her stockings in one hand, a wet bathing suit in the other, and a handkerchief tied over her wet dark hair. They stared at each other. She had been expecting an irate rustic type, and here was a surprised city-looking fellow of her own age. “I don’t see what harm 1 was doing!" she said indignantly.
Neither did Goulding. come to think of it. The girl was pretty, very pretty, and there was no reason why she shouldn’t swim in the pool if she wanted to. especially now that he was going to get rid of the place and shouldn't care who swam there.
“Well.” he said lamely, “it’s just the principle of the thing. You can’t have people around, lighting fires -”
“Who lighted (ires? And must you stand there staring while I get dressed?"
GOULDING promptly stalked away, and the girl took this moment to pull on her stockings and lace her shoes. Sighting Goulding through the trees, she hurried after him. "Just a minute !>She said coldly. “How do I know you have any authjprity here, anyway?”
Gouldinjf-checked a yelp of exasperation. He took a folded paper from a pocket of his slacks. It was a printer’s proof of the auction handbill; the lands, the buildings, the livestock, the tools, implements, vehicles, the household furnishings, everything that went with the estate of the late Horace Goulding/ An itemized list, down to two spinning wheels; one haluting cannon; two carpetbags.
The girl studied it. The detailed miscellany fascinated her. "If I owned this wonderful land and all these thrilling things, I wouldn’t think of selling!”
"I see. But— er—the predicament of ownership happens to be mine,” and he took the list from her and started away. Hester Styles and Chaytor Brookins, of the staff, and now this strange girl, this trespasser, telling him what he should do w ith his possessions.
The girl followed him. “Mr. Goulding!”
“My name’s Harlow. Goulding Harlow.”
“Well, mine is Mildred Titus, and if you’re going to have a sale, could 1 come beforehand and buy some things?”
Gosh, if one came and did that, and then another did. he’d never have his sale and get through with it. “I’m afraid not. This is an auction. Everything has to go to the highest bidder.”
"You don’t have to be stuffy about it!”
Goulding gave her a look. She smiled. It was quite a smile, with a lot of the good old cryptic business on it. and it served to bring to a close the purely business phases of the encounter, and compiled him to see that here was a girl of charm. By the frank expectancy in her blue eyes, it was clear that now she was regarding him as an interesting fellow, and having made him aware of her existence, she was putting the next move squarely up to him. Well, he wasn’t having any.
“Good morning.” he said formally, and turned and walked away, which he didn't exactly like to do; but after all. he was under no obligation to serve as companion and cruise director to every pretty girl who came to the country and wondered what next to do. And, too, there was her crack about not selling.
"If 1 don't look out.” he thought, “I’m going to lose my nerve about the auction.”
He liked the farm, but it was not his ambition to become a farmer. No indeed. He intended to become, professionally. a singer in the baritone register, and it would take a lot of money to train his voice, and to subsist during the training period, ar.d to provide for the faithful servitors. And so. the farm must go.
As he put distance between himself and the fair tres-
passer, he reviewed his state. Already his pleasing voice was known to a portion of the vast unseen radio audience. Not lifted in song, to be sure, for they had never let him sing at the little station, WUVWW, where he had been employed on the night shift. They hired him to tell the world about canned and package goods; and such things as that in five seconds it would be exactly such and such an hour, “Paulding Precision Watch Time;” and that the following program was by electrical transcription.
It was those transcribed programs that built up his ambition and his downfall. Oft, in the stilly night, as he made his announcements in cultured accents, he could have howled, because he had to follow schedule, and place upon the whirling disc such plates as, “The Road to Mandalay,” and, “Mammy’s Little Baby Loves Shortnin’ Bread,” which were always recorded by baritones.
To Goulding, there was always something pompous and offensive about those baritones, no matter which of his categories they fell into. There was the common baritone with a flannel-lined throat; the baritone with the heavy leaden tongue, bent in the middle; the baritones who were both of these, and sang inside wet paper bags; there was the Entombed Miner baritone, who sang so far back and deep that his words were frayed when they reached the portal; and the Immigrant baritone—a native-born fellow who could keep you guessing as to what language he was singing in, although it was English all the time.
But what griped Goulding most was the assumption of superiority in the voices and delivery of those recorded baritones. “Shortnin’ Bread.” of course, was rendered with amused tolerance, as by a returned warrior. “Mandalay” was always bellowed as only a Frank Buck, or a soldier of fortune, was entitled to sing it. And then there was that "Tally Ho!” number, with all the galloping-galloping in it.
That was the one that finally did it. On the night of the day that Goulding came into his inheritance, he had to play that galloping record, and right in the middle of it, when the famous recording baritone was galloping all over the place. Goulding shouted to him and to the listening world, "Why, you poor lug, you’ve probably got a male nurse waiting outside to push you home in a wheel chair!” This is one of the most successful ways to resign from radio work, as it is faster than being fired. But, before Goulding left the studio, he managed to smash two "Mandalay” records, one “Glory Road." and one "Rogues’ Song.” And now that he was determined to become, himself, a baritone, he made a vow never to be one of those bores who sang those hackneyed numbers, and to whom he had given the generic, derisive title. “Mandalay Men.” “Oh. Mr. Cunningham!” came a call.
HE TURNED. The girl had been following him across the wooded pasture. "Harlow.” he said shortly.
"I know, but that’s a Glenn Cunningham pace you’re setting.” She came up to him and gave him another smile, much on the order of her last one. "Sorry, but I’m sort of
turned around. I believe the word is—lost. Which way is the road?” "I’ll show you.”
She walked along with him. carrying her bathing suit in a sodden little clout. “Here.” he said suddenly, “I’ll carry the fish, then it won’t drip on your dress,” and he took the suit from her.
Miss Mildred Titus sighed. “ ‘We must go to the country,’ my father said, and here we are. at a ghastly little hotel in the village, and we can walk up Main Street and dow'n Main Street to our hearts’ content, and if we leave it, w'e’re trespassing!”
Goulding flushed. “Hah! So you went to harpoon school, eh? All right. I’m sorry, and you’re welcome to
come out to my place here any time you want, and if you’d like to see the things before the auction, come ahead. Now put away your spears.”
She laughed. "No. but really. Mr. Harlow, what does one do in your fair community? Or is it all right just to go quietly insane?”
“Well, whenever I get that way I always rush to the railroad station, applaud furiously when the train comes in; climb aboard, and lock my arms around a trunk in the baggage car, so they can’t throw me off. What I mean, I leave.”
“Oh, darn it—and we just came. Well. look, do you happen to know' of a real old-fashioned farm where they take boarders? You know, with real country atmosphere?" "A real old homestead? Complete with well-sweep and old oaken bucket? And a shepherd dog named Rover? And an old grey mare?”
“Yes!” she said eagerly.
“With a genuine old-time farmer to milk the cows, and square dances to fiddle music in the kitchen?” “Wonderful! That’s just what we’re looking for!” “Now let’s seeI did see such a place. Oh yes. I believe it w’as in a movie.”
She gave a little cry of rage. “Well, you kno where you can go, and knock twice, and ask for the devil!” “Well, gosh, you don’t have to get sore. I don’t know where you could find such a farm, to board at, in this day and age.”
He put his foot on the lowest strand of a barbed-wire fence, and raised the middle strand for her to get through, but she chose another place, and got hung up. "I don’t see,” he said as he unhooked the back of her skirt, “why anyone would want to board at a farm, especially—”
"I know. Especially in this day and age. But, it so happens we have our own dark, sinister, mysterious reasons.”
They climbed up on the highway, and she looked up and down the road, getting her bearings. "My father was to pick me up—Oh, here he is!” She waved, a horn sounded, and a big car bore down on them and stopjx*d.
A GLUM-LOOK ING man in w hite flannels sat behind the wheel, shoving a small mustache against his nose with disgusted lips, and beside him was a freckled boy in white ducks and singlet, with folded arms, his fists clenched under his slender biceps to make them look larger.
“My father.” said Mildred Titus, “and my brother, Kollin. This is Mr. Harlow. He owns all this land for just miles around.”
Mr. Titus gave Goulding his hand, beamed on him. and said, as for a small crowd, "Now this is what I like to see! A real, cornfed son of the soil, and proud of the land from which he sprang!"
Goulding quivered. He had always regarded himself as one of the neatest lads around the networks; crisp to the edges of his double-breasted suits, and now, although in slacks and polo shirt, he felt it should be obvious that he was a fast-fuse, metrojxilitan fellow.
Whoever he was. and whatever he was. where he came from, there was no doubt as to Mr. Titus’ familiarity with the voice of authority and the tone of command. A moment before, our hero had been a confident lad w ith that generous dash of self-esteem which one must have if one is to become, seriously, a singer. He had been an inheritor, escorting a charming young trespasser from his lands, and now, one word from her father, and he was like unto an humble employee, and if he’d had a hat he would have been fumbling it—and what is more, he knew it, but there was nothing he could do about it.
Mr. Titus had gone right on: “But I have a bone to pick with you. When I came here, I had every right to expect a fine old country town, and a tavern, with good country talk. And what do I find? A cheap imitation of every phase of urban life, including a terrible little hotel, with a poisonous swing band!”
“Father,” said Mildred, feeling sorry for Goulding. “Mr. Harlow has some of the most wonderful antiques and things, and he says I can look them over.”
Mr. Titus gestured carelessly. "What are we waiting on? Rollin. get in back, with Mildred. Mr. Harlow will want to sit up front and show me the way.”
A moment later they were en route to Mr. Harlow'’s, and Mr. Harlow was wandering how he came to be speeding back to the farm without having transacted his business in the village. From the rear seat he heard Rollin's hoarse whisper to his sister, “Where'd you get the guy with the big ears?” Then came a slight yelp of pain from Rollin and, "Well, you can see the sun through ’em, red-like.”
Goulding's ears got redder. He was going to say. 'T’ve had enough of this. Let me out!” But. instead, he said, "We turn here, right after this mailbox.”
Mr. Titus swung into the long shady lane. His spirits soared as the car dipixd and rose over the bumps. “Your property. Harlow?”
“On both sides, and those hills and woods beyond.”
"Splendid !” said Mr. Titus.
In back, Rollin and Mildred now sat up with interest. The lane came out in a clearing. Ahead, on a knoll surrounded by big maples, was the farmhouse, with the barns and sheds beyond. To their right was the old mill, and millpond; and as Mr. Titus stopj)ed the car. there was an angry gabbling in the ranks of some ducks which for an hour had been forming up for the short march to the pond, and now had to call it off.
The car doors popped open, the four got out. and the Tituses looked about with shining faces and glistening eyes. “Currier and Ives!” shouted Mr. Titus. “My boy, you have here a dream place. A real old farm homestead, such as I didn’t think existed any more, except in the historic prints of Currier and Ives!”
Flushed, smiling, Mildred w as staring at Goulding, who was flushed and uncomfortable. “Motion picture, was it? And all the time you had this wonderful place? Oh, and there’s even an oldtime farmer!”
Around the comer of the house, old Chaytor Brookins was peering. In the house, from behind curtains. Hester Styles was watching apprehensively, for this car in the yard, and the strangers* must mean that the end had come.
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Detour to Mandalay
Continued from page 15Z—Starts on page 14 -
“How do you like it, Mildred?” Mr. Titus asked, as proudly as though he personally had wrenched this farm from the forest primeval.
“Too wonderful for words!”
“Now what do you say. Rollin?”
“Aw, gee, pop!” said Rollin joyously, as he stalked a top sergeant of ducks.
“Mr. Harlow,” said Mr. Titus, “I am known for my quick decisions. We shall stay!”
“But we don’t take boarders!” said Goulding.
“Nonsense!” Mr. Titus laughed. “Who ever saw a farm that wouldn’t take in boarders? Name your rates, but I warn you—we are staying!”
Goulding glared at Mildred, but she was too busy being enchanted to notice. He glared at Rollin, who now was out on the dam, balancing like a tightrope walker. He glared at Mr. Titus, who was beaming on furtive Chaytor Brookins like an early explorer about to make opening overtures to a suspicious redskin.
If Goulding told Mr. Titus it was all off, would Mr. Titus believe him? He would not. He would insist that it was a deal. And when Goulding explained that having inherited this outmoded old horse-and-hoe estate, he wished to sell it in order to become a baritone, Mr. Titus would cry, “What rot!” and talk him out of it, for, of all artistic ambitions, that of the man who would sing seems the silliest to the unsympathetic.
“Well,” said Goulding, making up his mind, “I have to speak to the hired girl.”
He had decided to let Hester do the evicting job, and he found her in the darkened parlor, where she had been on observation post. “They want to board here, Hester! You go out and just say—”
“Thank heaven!” said Hester. “Oh, Goulding, this is wonderful !”
AND SO the Titus trio moved in on Ci Goulding, and “bag and baggage” was a mild term for the paraphernalia the truck driver from the hotel dumped on the grass in front of the house. There was even a collapsible kayak for Rollin, and a folded Chief Wah Hoo tepee, and a rubber raft to be inflated with a pump.
Goulding’s services were indicated, since Mr. Titus and son Rollin were making a tour of the premises with Chaytor, and he moved everything into the house and up to the rooms selected by his unbidden guests. As he staggered into Mildred’s room with the last of her trunks on his back, she gave him for the third time an admiring, "My, but you’re strong!” and then she said, “Let's see—have we everything?”
“All but the skis, the outboard motor and the bobsled,” said Goulding grimly. “But I'm afraid you left them at home with your alpenstock and mountain ropes.”
She laughed. “Oh, but it’s wonderful here !” She drew back a curtain and looked down at the pond, where the ducks were at naval manoeuvres. “Is it all right to swim in the pond?”
“Sure, but don’t dive from the dam or you might hit one of those big rocks. Well, make yourself at home,” and he turned away.
This time he couldn’t make it work. He had to turn back. As before, she was smiling expectantly at him, waiting for him to fill in the blanks and add his signature to a program for an immediate future which would include her. He gazed at her in an orgy of window shopping. A smile drove repeatedly at the stern defenses of his face, and captured an outlying redoubt, as he saw that here, right under his own roof, was a girl who should be tops on his list.
“Goulding,” she said suddenly. “We— we think it’s just wonderful of you, you know—to call off your auction. Hester is awfully pleased.”
He gaped, he nodded, and he strode out. Who said he had called off his auction? And how had Mildred and Hester Styles managed to put their heads together so fast? Hester knew it was no part of his plan to abandon her and Chaytor, and he wondered if she had made it seem that he was selling her out of house and home.
He was so confused that he went into retreat, so far back in the woods that there were only a few squirrels and a young married couple of pheasants to hear him. Then he tried out his voice to see if it was just the way he had left it; or, meanwhile, had its emotional values been enriched by the love and hate that had come to him? Of course, love was just the official collective bargaining term for the way he felt about Mildred Titus, which at this stage he felt could be best described as “slightly nuts.” And hate was too strong a word for his annoyance with Mr. Titus, who had advanced as to an auction preview, and moved right in.
For more than an hour, Goulding performed pleasantly on his chromatic staircase, and since he was alone, he tried some daring slides down the banisters to the bass caverns, and some swings from the chandeliers of the tenor register. Then he put his professional voice back into its baritone case, and with a few, “Mi-meemi-mi-mee’s,” to make sure it was safe, he wended his way back to the house.
“I must put myself in the hands of a voice coach forthwith,” he decided. “The sooner I get a professional ring and zing in the old tones, the sooner I get lined up for a good movie or radio job. Right now the Tituses are draped across the path of progress and therefore, the Tituses must depart.”
He considered that phase of it. “I can’t put them out. but they’ll soon get sick of it. Young Rollin will yearn for jitter and swing. Papa Titus will be bored into a tight knot. And Mildred is too debby to waste three trunks full of style-show wardrobe on a back-lane barnyard. I shall miss her, and I shall pursue, at the first opportunity, but the auction must go on !”
There is nothing like bold decision to clear away the clouds of doubt and act as a supercharger on all the languid departments of the spirits. Goulding bounded down the hill to the house with every vitamin snapping and sparking. A program unrolled itself swiftly. One of the best places to discourage guests was at table. A word to Hester should restrain her from being too masterly in the cuisine; and if viands of a coarse, nourishing quality, but of homely appearance were placed upon the board, a few degrees under eating heat, that should help. Take the cold boiled potato, for example. There was nothing like the sight of a cold boiled potato, especially at breakfast time, to bring dismay to the summer boarder. At the very thought of it, Goulding paused to cringe, then sped on.
THE moment he appeared on the home grounds, he was hailed from four different directions. Hester called from the kitchen; Mr. Titus from the barnyard; and from opposite ends of the millpond, he was challenged by young Tituses.
“Yo, Goulding! Get your tranks and come on!” cried Rollin, whose glistening torso rose from the cockpit of his kayak.
"Don’t you want some of this gorgeous sun?” called Mildred, who was wearing a blue bathing suit and, face down, was floating about on the inflated rubber raft, with a convoy of ducks.
Goulding’s heart plunged and leaped like a moored boat in the wash of a passing tug. Two irresistible appeals, at once. In all his boyhood he had never had a canoe like Rollin’s, and it was a temptation to remove Rollin by cajolery or force, and take over. But that was juvenile and,
putting himself to the test, Goulding found that the attractions of the other end of the pond stirred more profoundly his adult aesthetic senses. Mildred’s raft floated gently nearer, and as she lay with her head on her folded arms, she turned a flushed, glowing face to him. “Aw, come on,” she said softly. “This is the absolute zenith of sun bathing.”
“Hey, Gouldy, kin you come over here a minnit?” Chaytor Brookins called.
Goulding told Mildred he’d be right back, and he went to the barnyard. He found it wasn’t Chaytor who hailed him but Mr. Titus, who had in a short time become very rustic and had old Chaytor’s voice in perfect imitation. The rear end of a farm wagon was up on a jack, a wheel had been removed, and of all the things to do or not to do around a farm, Mr. Titus had chosen the messy job of greasing the axle.
He beamed on Goulding. “Sit down, my boy. I have been analyzing this situation, and I am ready to report.”
Goulding sat on a sawhorse, thinking briskly. Fun was fun, but he was in no position to dedicate himself and his time to fun. The Tituses must go. Later, with funds in hand and his voice in training, he could deliver himself to Mildred as a fait accompli, or whatever it was; anyway, a smoothly baritoned fellow. But now they must part. Perhaps the Tituses would shove off before their conventional two weeks were up, if he encouraged preview buyers to come in and buy things right out from under them. “What would Caruso or Scotti do in a spot like this?” he asked himself. “Hah! They’d sell out and be on their way !”
Mr. Titus began, “Goulding, the farmer has been overlooking one of his best assets. What I shall call the working boarder. The city man who loves to come to the same farm, summer after summer, and work for the sheer joy of the exercise, and the pleasure of working when he doesn’t have to.”
“Huh?” said Goulding, astonished.
“Exactly. Now I believe every child should have a country background. My own children are too sophisticated. I want them to have something like this to look back on. Therefore we shall stay here all summer, and keep the place rather selfishly to ourselves.”
Goulding jumped up. He felt chasms opening, radially, from where he stood. He felt doomed. “Well, gosh—I don’t know just how to say it, but—”
A/R. TITUS deftly slipped the wheel LVL on the axle, spun it to admire the magic of lubrication, then tightened the hub nut. “You have a good man here in Chaytor Brookins. Chaytor is priceless. We shall regard him as our head coach. You’ll find me a good worker, and I shall expect a reasonable amount of assistance from my children, for I want them to know that the secret of success is work. But you. sir!” He paused and beamed on Goulding. "You shall be our pacemaker !’’
With that, Mr. Titus thrust out his hand. Then, remembering the axle grease, he presented his crooked elbow, country waggish style. Goulding gripped his elbow, and reeled away to the kitchen, and the importuning Hester.
Hester was excited. “Here’s for the first month, in advance !” she said. “Room and board for all three, with something extra for keeping the place exclusive for ’em!”
Goulding looked at Mr. Titus’ cheque, and his hair stood on end. “Gosh, Hester! They want to help with the chores, and pay all this, besides?” And Hester said, as loudly and decisively as she could, “S-s-ssh!” for she wanted no sabotage from the boss.
Goulding reeled out the back door and, keeping the house in line so his retreat could not be observed from the pond, he sped to the woods. He was a badly shaken, confused young baritone, and when he tested his voice to see what chaos and despair had brought to it. he found he had little or no voice, and no power to put behind it. It was, he decided, a crying
shame for a good baritone to be sacrificed on the altar of boarders, but what could he do?
When he presented himself at dinner time, he could not respond to the joy and excitement of the Tituses. And. too, the treachery of his staff infuriated him. Hester had transcended herself with the foodstuffs. Chaytor, instead of meeting Mr. Titus’ city advances with the good old rustic rebuff, had become quickly chummy with him.
Goulding found he could endure senior and junior Titus, festive in fresh whites, imploring each other to try some more of this or that because it was delicious. But Mildred maddened him. The wave in her dark hair, he saw, was natural, since it had survived two swimming ventures. From her extensive wardrobe she had selected a gown cut from gingham, but along smart evening lines. When Goulding looked at her, he had to battle as hard as he could to see her as the siren who had lured his baritone bark to destruction, for instinct placed imperious orders before him to put his arms around Mildred at the earliest opportunity.
Noting his restrained, pensive mood, Mildred regarded him thoughtfully. “Goulding,” she said abruptly, “you must not let any of us interfere with your routine, or your plans and privacy. Rollin, you hear me? And father, that goes for you,too!”
“Goulding and I have had a nice talk,” said her father easily. “Goulding sees eye to eye with me.”
“Oh, sure,” said Goulding. “And now, if you’ll excuse me . . . ”
He withdrew, and paced in the shadows of the maples. Outside of everything else, it didn’t seem fair that when romance came to him, it should have an eager young brother along, and a bossy male parent. Perhaps if he could have a moment alone, with Mildred . . .
But he was not to have it. When she came out of the house, she was pulling a little coat over her, and she jumped into the Titus car, and shot down the lane. Then Goulding shook his fists, and howled to himself with rage. There it was. He might have known. The night, and music, and frivolity had called, and she was off to the roadhouses. Typical boarder stuff. Jump into a car and rush off, at the first opportunity.
He had thought to chat with Hester and Chaytor in the kitchen, but he couldn’t stand the way they smiled on him and assumed that already he had slipped into his role as rural boardinghouse master. So avoiding the male Tituses, he went to bed.
V\ THEN HE came down in the morning, ** he found he was the last to rise. Rollin already was on the pond. Mr. Titus was at the barn, with Chaytor, and when Goulding finished breakfast, he found Mildred, in the bathing suit which she had adopted as her day costume, busy with a flower garden which was to adorn the west and south sides of the house. At his approach, with that charming feminine artistry which conceals its art, she tackled a task that was too much for her. In this case, a burly burdock defied uprooting, and so, instantly, she had Goulding as an aid.
It was a fine morning. Birds sang. Heavy transport bees buzzed through on important bee business; stiff-legged hens stalked about, talking to themselves on poultry themes; and ducks which had grown up together, regarded each other with mild ejaculations of astonishment; while horses stamped in the bam. and cows played leisurely at following their bellbearing leader.
Goulding’s spirits soared. It was, he decided, pretty swell, working along with Mildred in her bathing suit, and he thought to get into trunks, himself, and partake of some of this free sun. He felt so well that he roared through several staves of “Barnacle Bill, the Sailor.”
“What a splendid voice!” said Mildred. “Have you ever thought of studying and singing professionally?”
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Continued from page 60
Before he could answer. Mr. Titus shouted for him. Goulding smiled at Mildred. “Brief pause for station identification,” he said, “but I'll be back in a minute.”
He was not back in a minute, or in an hourful of them. Mr. Titus awarded him, officially, a hoe, and with Chaytor. they repaired to a field of young corn and bent their backs to the toil. Presently, Goulding, rising to reconnoitre, saw Mildred hurry from the house, fastening the extra little skirt and blouse that made a playsuit of her bathing garb; and she got into the car and departed. “There she goes again !” thought Goulding, and wielded his hoe so savagely he almost guillotined a toe.
She came back in time for lunch. Again Goulding was the silent member of the board, although by now there were community jokes; and old Chaytor. lunching in the kitchen, laughed ruStily at the banter, encouragement and challenge directed at Hester, when she professed a personal interest in the feminine fashion of shorts.
“I'll give Mildred one more chance.” Goulding thought. “I don’t care if she works or plays, if she only stays around. But if she goes running off all the time, she’ll hear from me!”
During the afternoon, from the corn field he saw her and Rollin working at the flower garden, and that was all right, and peace came to him again, and once more he raised his voice in strong free song, this time a little something from the opera, “Rienzi.” When he finished he looked up to find Mr. Titus leaning on his hoe, regarding him with a new interest.
“You sing as though you enjoyed it,” said Mr. Titus.
“I do,” said Goulding, grinning and looking off at the house.
“Nothing like a good natural voice, unspoiled by training and forced culture,” said Mr. Titus. “Keep it that way. Nowlet’s see. How about singing—”
Before he could put his choice in nomination, Goulding gave a sharp cry.
“Hurt yourself?” enquired Mr. Titus solicitously.
“No!” said Goulding. “You'll have to excuse me, but I’m going to abandon you and Chaytor for a while.”
He rammed the end of his hoe handle into the soil, and stalked away. He was angered at Mr. Titus for his gratuitous advice, and he was angered at Mildred. He had seen her depart again in the family car, and this time she was wearing a fine sports ensemble, and instantly he suspected she was going to laugh the afternoon away with cards and cocktails on somebody’s terrace.
Enraged, he patrolled the lane. Then he paced back and forth, near the highway. Then he paced on the highway, expecting her to return from the direction of some sporty estates. Suddenly she came looping back from the direction of the village, and shot into the lane when he was too far up the highway to hail her. So. he wasn’t even going to get a lift back to the house, or a chance to deliver his little talk, out of earshot of the personnel and the other members of the Titus tribe.
As he drew near the house, Mildred ran out. in her bathing suit. She ran out on the dam, and dived in, and the splash drowned his shout of warning. She dived down among a lot of big rocks that had fallen from the dam, and she didn’t come up.
■pRANTIC, Goulding rushed to the
pond, and took a header, as was. He opened his eyes to a submarine miscellany of old iron wheels, broken kettles and jugs, and he swam desperately around among the boulders, but he couldn’t find Mildred.
Mildred, who had gone the length of the pond under water, was about to pull herself out, when the activity at the dam side caught her attention. Astonished, she watched as Goulding came to the surface, treaded water, then upended himself abruptly. She wondered what he was up
to. thrashing around down there with all his clothes on. Twice more he came up, and disappeared again, the seat of his trousers flashing briefly in the sun, and the second time, one of his shoes was thrown half across the pond by an upflung leg. That time, he didn’t come up. and she lashed quickly across to him, went down, and brought him up.
He had his hands spread when he dived, and his head had found a rock. She pulled him ashore, and draped him on the bank. Before she could scream for help, he opened his eyes and looked at her. “Goulding ! Are you hurt?”
He had only been stunned. He sat up. rid himself of some water, and, realizing that instead of saving her, she had saved him, he was more angry than before. “Look here,” he said. “This has gone far enough !”
“I should hope so. It may be an old rural custom to have a sham battle with yourself under water, but I was worried.” He gestured that away. “What do you people think you’re putting over on me, anyway?”
She stared at him in bewilderment. “Just what do you mean?”
He was so excited he was almost incoherent, and as he wrung himself out. wherever he could find some slack, he said, “I mean I was going to sell this place, and you knew it. and there was no reason why I shouldn’t sell it. for it is mine. And if you have any idea that I was throwing Hester and Chaytor to the wolves, forget it. I have my own plans for them. ”
“Darling,” she said anxiously, peering into his face, “don’t you think we’d best get you right to a doctor, and have him look at your head?”
“No!” he bawled. “And don’t ‘darling’ me!”
She looked at him. Now she was indignant. “Must you shout? If you have some thought you wish to convey—”
“I am conveying it. I was ready to sell, and you people came along—”
Mildred blushed, but faced him boldly. “So, we came along, and instead of being grateful—”
“What?” he roared. “Instead of being grateful . . .?”
T-JER face now was fiery. “I should not have said that, and I apologize. But I’m sure I don’t know what’s the matter with you, if your head is whole. I didn’t know we had offended you. Why—I
thought you—you liked having us!”
Now his face was just as red. “I do! That's just it!”
She shook her head. “Really, I think a doctor—”
“No. no. My trouble is something else. You people move in on me, and that is all right. Your father puts me to work, and that is all right too, for I love farm work. But, if you think I'm going to put in a summer here, playing farmhand, in this little ‘Way Down East’ you have written for yourselves, just so your father can play gentleman farmer, and so Rollin can have some water sports—”
“All right. We’ll go. Just give us time to pack.’’
“I haven’t finished. All I mean is, I was willing to go through with this, on account of you, but if you—”
“On account of me?”
“Sure. I thought I'd have a chance to
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see you once in a while, but every few minutes you leap into the car and drive away, and I can see just how it is going to be, day after day and night after night. I don't blame you. It is dull and stupid here for you, and in your place I probably would rush off every chance I got. But, well, here’s an idea. You people stay, and I’ll go, because I can’t stand it!”
“Goulding,” she said softly, “I’ve only been to the village to buy flower seeds and things, and just now I had to put in a longdistance call for father, and I don’t like to go into the hotel unless I’m decently dressed. Otherwise I’d never leave the farm, for I love it. And. Goulding ...”
He didn’t have to ask, “What?” All he had to do was to respond to the invitation of her lips.
"I suppose you’re really pretty stupid,” she murmured.
Goulding sent that thought swiftly through his private processes, and out came a glad, happy song. A lot of song, done in his best baritone manner.
“What,” asked Mildred, “are you doing on a farm with a voice like that? I mean, I know you only came back here to sell your property, but what do you do in the city?”
He told her, up to and including his fast and boisterous finish at Station WUVWW. Mildred laughed. “It was kind of funny at that,” said Goulding, grinning.
“Not was, but is funny!” said she. “Now Rollin and I are not permitted to say anything about father. He has feelings, and he cherishes his privacy, and he loathes autograph people. But I want you to take that voice straight to father, and tell him I sent you. Only first, you must get into some dry clothes.”
Goulding gaped at her. He brushed his dank hair from his forehead and a blush followed his hand. He leaped up, rushed into the house, and changed his clothes. Her father must be head of the Metropolitan Opera Company. Or maybe there was such a thing as the Titus Concert Tours, and Goulding had never heard of it !
The eminent baritone, Mr. Goulding Harlow, in a triumphant concert tour, from coast to coast, under the management of Mr. Arthur Titus. Hah! Why, the minute you looked at Mr. Titus, you could see what a wonderful little man he was, and if a high-spot executive like Mr. Titus, with the pistol-shot note of command, wanted to work on a farm for nothing, and pay for the privilege, why, it only proved his genius!
Goulding thought back quickly to see how he stood with Mr. Titus. Had he ever insulted him carelessly, or been cool and high with him? No, he thought not, and he decided the best approach would be one of simple, smiling dignity, for of course he couldn’t rush at Mr. Titus, and pick lints off him, and brush him off, and give him the two hands handshake, and pat his head.
Gosh, maybe Mr. Titus was a movie talent scout, looking for a young baritone to play romantic leads opposite ladies like Miss Jeanette MacDonald and Miss Grace Moore! Goulding’s heart bounded three octaves. “Aside, Mr. Exldy, Mr.Tibbett, Mr. Boles—and you too, Mr. John Charles Thomas! Here comes Goulding Harlow !”
He bounded out to Mildred. “I don’t know what it is all about,” he said, "and I feel kind of foolish.”
Mildred kissed him swiftly. “Now I feel full of bold and dash and prance !” said he, and would have lingered, but ambition’s bugles were blowing.
HE STRODE back to the cornfield. Mr.
Titus was being Man With the Hoe, and mopping his brow with a new and rural bandanna. Before Goulding could say a word, Mr. Titus said, “Let’s get over in the shade, Goulding. I’ve been thinking you over. How’d you like to be discovered?” “I guess that’s what I am here for,’’ said Goulding, as they sat under a big oak.
“I can use you next winter, reading straight parts, in my sketches, and giving a good baritone solo or two on each pro-
gram. I’ll get you some fine publicity, and you should have a nice future, in radio.”
“In radio?” said Goulding. “What is all this?”
Mr. Titus smiled. "Hain’t you never heard tell of Bruce Eakins. the County Chairman?” he asked, in rural accents.
“Oh, for gosh sake ! I always thought his name really was Bruce Eakins!” Goulding was thrilled, for this was fame he could understand. He stared at the slender man who had been for years a high-rating radio personality, with his programs of homely advice, gossip, comedy, and homely choir and organ music; and for the last five years had been a headliner for the same toothpaste company.
"Oh, I’m Bruce Eakins all right,” said Mr. Titus modestly. “And Mildred is always Opal Eakins, in the cast, and Rollin has made quite a hit as Ollie Eakins, but I consider myself a normal businessman, and I want my children to be sane and sensible, and not let this accidental success go to their heads.”
“Wal’, whip my withers, as Chaytor would say!”
Mr. Titus’ eyes twinkled. “You can’t imagine what it means to me to put my hands to farm work once more, after all these years of talking about it. I’m picking up fresh material by the minute. Now, Goulding, I can use you, not only on the programs but as an assistant production manager. I’d like to school you in every branch of the business. I didn’t want to pick up one of those nervous, high-strung, aspirin and bicarb lads you see running in and out of the broadcasting offices, and you look to me like the very man I want.”
As Goulding was deciding it was not necessary to explain he was not exactly a radio novice, Mildred said, “Somebody at the door,” and coming out from behind the tree, “and by golleys. it’s me!”
MR. TITUS looked up at her, as she stood beside Goulding, running her hand through his hair. “Is that in the script? Don’t you complicate matters! I’m trying to show Goulding something of the future. He should keep his farm to come back to, summers when the program is off the air—”
"Mr. Titus!” said Goulding, hurling
opera, the concert stage and the movies to the winds. "If you think you can use me in the Eakins sketches, I ’ll do anything you ask of me!”
Mr. Titus got to his feet. “That’s the spirit. Now first we should have a little audition. My sponsor has a favorite song, and you’ll have to give it at least three times during the winter. How are you on ‘Mandalay’?”
Goulding’s face fell. “Oh.” He stood up. He booted a clod of earth. “Does he want a ‘Mandalay’ and ‘Shortnin’ Bread’ man?” Mr. Titus smiled. “I know what you mean,” he said dryly. “And hooray for grand opera; and the recitalists, in their morning coats. But you may have noticed that it is the ‘Mandalay’ boys who always have jobs; and the kind of people whoiike to hear ‘Shortnin’ Bread,’ and those other familiar numbers, are the kind of people who buy our soap and toothpaste.”
Goulding looked at him. He looked at Mildred, who smiled, and nodded toward her father. “You can’t beat old Bruce Eakins. You’ll admit he’s always right.” Goulding sighed. He looked again at Mildred, for reassurance, and then he grinned. “I can make quick decisions, too,” he said to Mr. Titus. “Here I go!”
And then he roared through “The Road to Mandalay” so lustily that deaf old Chaytor Brookins rose from a distant row, and stood with canted head, his hand cupping an ear; a pleased smile on his weatherbeaten face.
“There!” said Mr. Titus enthusiastically. “Now that is the way it should be sung—as though you loved it!”
“Thanks,” said Goulding. He grinned at Mildred, and then he said to her father, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a—well, a rehearsal, with Miss Opal.”
Mr. Titus looked at the two. “All right, my boy, and there’ll be another rehearsal, right here, at eight sharp in the morning. With the hoe, I mean. If I’m going to discover you, I want you around where I can see you once in a while.”
“Fair enough,” said Goulding, and he skipped away with Mildred. He was singing. He was singing the galloping-galloping number, and he no longer had to warm his notes himself.