FICTION

Marry ME!

ROBERT ARTHUR June 1 1942
FICTION

Marry ME!

ROBERT ARTHUR June 1 1942

Marry ME!

ROBERT ARTHUR

IT WAS just half past four on a Tuesday afternoon, in the library of Ann’s father—a local banker, stout, with high coloring and a sharp temper—when Ann Dexter asked Seymour to marry her.

She did it quite simply.

“Seymour,” she said, setting down her coke glass, “I want you to marry me. It doesn’t matter when, as long as it’s before June third.”

Seymour blinked, and choked kind of. Then he set down his glass, and regaining an air of casual aplomb, lit a cigarette. His pose—it being our senior year—was the nonchalant, man-of-theworld one; as his roommate I found it rather trying.

“I am sorry, Ann,” he said pleasantly, “but I cannot.”

For an instant Ann stared at Seymour, surprise showing on her face. Then a firm note came into her voice.

“You can too!” she stated. “And you’re going to. Before June third.”

Seymour shook his head.

“I’m sorry, Ann,” he repeated, “hut it isn’t possible.”

“Oh, is that so?” Ann asked, stamping her foot. Her own temper somewhat resembles her father’s, and she does not enjoy opposition.

“I’m afraid it is,” Seymour said regretfully.

I will not deny that on practically all occasions it was Seymour Landis’ company rather than mine that Ann seemed to prefer. Wearing horn-rimmed glasses as I did, and lacking Seymour’s height, athletic build, good looks, ability to dance, and conversational ease, I was not surprised by this preference of Ann’s. But neither was I dismayed.

Ann was, and is, an unusual girl. And intuition told me that Seymour was not the man to make her happy when she had matured enough to realize that good looks, dancing ability, and wavy hair are not sufficient to hold the interest of a girl with a mind as active as Ann’s.

But apparently Ann thought differently. She had already stamped her foot, and Ann never

repeats herself. She looked around and on a handy table found a book—“The Outline of History,” in two volumes. Breathing hard, she picked up Volume One and slammed it down again. She then picked up Volume Two and slammed it down beside Volume One. A cherished souvenir of her father’s, a pottery ash tray which the old gentleman had sneaked out of a most exclusive night club, fell off the table and shattered.

“Now look what you’ve done!” Ann cried at Seymour, jumping up and pointing to the fragments. “Daddy will be furious! It was his favorite ash tray.”

“What I’ve done?” Seymour asked, raising his eyebrows. “I had nothing to do with breaking it.” “Didn’t you say you wouldn’t marry me?” Ann demanded. “Would it have got broken if you hadn’t?”

Seymour shrugged, letting the point pass.

“I am sure, Ann,” he stated, “that if you want to get married, Freddie here will be glad to marry you. But why must it be before June third?” “Because,” Ann snapped, answering the question but ignoring the rest of his remark, “if I’m not married before then, I’ll be last.”

“Last?” Seymour frowned. “Last what?”

“Last in the club !” Ann told him. “Now do you understand?”

“No.” Seymour shook his head. “I do not.”

Ann gritted her teeth.

“You’re being stupid on purpose!” she charged. “Then listen. I belong to a club of ten girls. We started it in high school. We have bridge games and go horseback riding together and—”

“And get married?” Seymour suggested. “You draw lots, and whoever gets the one marked X has to get married before the next meeting?”

By a supreme effort Ann retained control of herself, but I prudently replaced “The Outline of History” with a small book of poems.

“We incorporated in the bylaws,” she told Seymour, “an agreement that the last girl in the club unmarried would have to treat all the others and their husbands to a week end at an exclusive summer hotel. Yesterday we met, and two of the girls admitted that they’ve been married secretly for weeks, leaving only me and that unpleasant Helen Mathuson who aren’t. And she’s going to be, June third. So unless I am, before then, I’ll be last. And I can’t afford it.”

“So!” Seymour exclaimed. “You want me to marry you so you can save a few paltry dollars!” “Other men don’t seem to find me so undesirable !” Ann snapped. “Freddie, here, for instance.” “Freddie and I mold our lives in different ways,” Seymour told her in a superior manner. “Freddie is an emotionalist, swayed by his feelings, ready without thinking twice to marry any girl who comes along with whom he fancies himself in love.” “Oh!” said Ann. “Oh!”

She had already stamped once, and slammed H. G. Wells around. Now she simply picked out the nearest soft-appearing object and kicked it. “Ann !” I cried, in anguish. “Be careful !”

“Just any girl who comes along!” Ann hissed, and kicked again.

I do not want it thought I moved deliberately. It was simply a case of reflex action. But on the second kick Ann’s foot encountered no resistance, and as a result she lost her balance and fell to the floor.

I was at her side at once, but she waved me away. “No, Freddie, I don’t want to get up,” she stated. “I want to remain here, injured, perhaps crippled for life, so that Seymour can see what he has done to me.”

“Now, Ann,” Seymour remonstrated, “you can hardly say that I am responsible for your falling. Your own highly impetuous nature—”

“It’s all the same thing,” Ann informed him bitterly.

“The truth is, Ann,” Seymour said, avoiding argument on the point, “though I am deeply fond of you, I have been studying myself, and you, in the light of the more recent psychology, and I have been forced to the conclusion that you are the wrong type of girl for one of my temperament to marry.”

ANN PUT her hands on her hips, and her lips curled.

“So!” she exclaimed. “After four years you discover that I am the wrong type for your temperament!”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Seymour agreed. “Consider your present undignified position, together with your exhibition of childish illogic of the last few minutes. A man of my temperament would find it hopeless to attempt marriage with a woman of yours. My study of psychology has opened my eyes to many things, including the fact that the average man, in choosing a mate, is, nine to one, going to pick a pretty face and an attractive figure without giving a thought to deeper and more important things. I refer to compatibility of character. Do you follow me?”

“Oh, quite, Seymour,” Ann retorted cuttingly. “You intimate that I have a pretty face and an attractive figure, but have no character.”

“Nothing of the kind, Ann,” Seymour denied. “I merely mean that your character would not match mine well.”

“Then, Seymour,” Ann said between her teeth, retaining her sitting position on the floor, “perhaps you would tell us just what kind of girl would make you a suitable—mate, I believe is the word you used.”

“I’ll be glad to,” Seymour agreed. “Would you like a cigarette? No? Well, then, the girl I am looking for should be about five feet five, blond — ash blond, not platinum or golden—and weigh about a hundred and twenty pounds. She must be of English or Scottish ancestry, have a good musical knowledge, and be able to talk intelligently about books, politics, and football.”

Now Ann does not answer that description at all. She is five feet three, decidedly brunette—her hair has a fascinating wave just over her ears—weighs one hundred and ten pounds, and has no interest whatever in music, except dance music, though she is exceptionally bright about football. So she simply sat, staring at Seymour in wordless loathing, and I chose that moment to remind her of my own presence.

Greater men than Freddie might have been baffled to find the course of true love ruffled by psychology and a rhinoceros-hide whip

“Ann,” I said definitely, “Seymour is not the man for you.”

“Oh, he isn’t, isn’t he?” Ann asked, in a dangerous voice. What more she might have said I do not know, for at that moment her father, stout and red-faced, entered, having just returned from his bank.

“Ump,” he said, greeting us inclusively as he stalked in and settled himself in his favorite chair, unfolding a newsj&per and immersing himself in it immediately.

“Father,” Ann said, her voice hard, “I have something to tell you.”

“Ump,” Mr. Dexter responded, engrossed in the financial page.

“Seymour refuses to marry me.”

“Sensible fellow.”

“More than that,” Ann stated, “after he had refused me, he knocked me down.”

“Shows he means it,” Mr. Dexter commented, refusing to be diverted from the mining list.

“Father, you’re not very complimentary to me,” Ann sniffed. “As the head of the family, have you no family pride?”

“No,” the head of the family responded.

“You don’t care that a man refuses to marry your daughter because he says she has no character?” “No.”

“Or that she is then insulted in a low and vulgar manner?”

“Good precedent.”

“And then knocked down?”

“Sound stratagem on the fellow’s part.”

“And then has an ash tray thrown at her?” “Clearly a man not to be bullied. Let it be a warning to you.”

“Your pet ash tray, which got broken?”

“What?” For the first time the paper lowered. Ann’s father sat up and stared dangerously about him. “What about my ash tray?”

Mutely Ann pointed at the fragments of pottery on the floor.

Mr. Dexter rose. His face had turned an unpleasant purplish hue.

“My asb tray!” he said in a strangled voice. “From the Pyramid Club. Cost me a hundred and eighty dollars to get it. Who broke it?”

“He did,” Ann said, without, I thought, being sufficiently specific.

“He did, did he?” Mr. Dexter growled deep in his chest, seeming to include both Seymour and myself in the same baleful glance, though we were standing some distance apart. He came forward a step or two in a sort of crouch. “Ann, where is my rhinoceros-hide whip?”

“Over in the corner,” Ann informed him.

Still crouched, Mr. Dexter swung with surprising rapidity toward a corner holding a stand full of canes and clubs of various sorts.

“Broke my ash tray, did he?”

“Good-by, Ann,” Seymour said then. “I hope I haven’t hurt your feelings.”

“All is over between us!” Ann called after him sharply as he vaulted through the open window and disappeared.

“Ann,” I said then, “there’s something I’d like to say to you.”

Ann at last arose from the floor.

“I’m afraid we haven’t time now, Freddie.” “But I want to say—”

“You had better go, Freddie,” Ann suggested. “Daddy seems to have found his rhinoceros-hide whip.”

Something struck the table beside me with a vicious slap, knocking to the floor a valuable Ming vase.

“Perhaps you are right, Ann,” I agreed. “Until later, then.”

And I too left.

HAVING successfully shaken off Mr. Dexter by the expedient of dodging through several alleys and pulling empty ash cans across his path, I re-entered the frat house some minutes later, breathing heavily. I found Seymour in our room, already immersed in a large psychological tome, and demanded of him if he had meant what he had said to Ann. He assured me that he had, and added:

“If I ever find such a girl as I described, you and Ann will see if I mean what I say or not. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Freddie, there are several psychological theories here that I want to get a better grasp on.”

So I left him. With a clouded brow I sought a quiet spot in the basement. An idea was coming to me, and I needed solitude in which to perfect it.

As a result of my cogitations, the next day I made my way westward, after classes, to the more dilapidated section of the town where on a side street is located an establishment known as Dingy Joe’s. Dingy Joe, a little man reputed to have once been a jockey, knew, so I had heard, more varied individuals than any other person in town. He, if anyone, could tell me whether a girl answering Seymour’s description resided in the town, or any place near by.

I ordered a drink and Dingy Joe served it himself.

“Hi’ya, professor?” he asked genially.

‘‘Very good,” I said noncommittally. I leaned closer. ‘‘Do you wish to earn some money?” I asked.

Dingy Joe lit a cigar and nodded. “So long as it ain’t anything honest,” he replied.

“I desire to meet such a girl as I am about to describe,” I informed him. I thereupon repeated Seymour’s specifications. Dingy Joe listened closely, puffing upon his cigar.

“How bad do you want this girl?” he asked when I had finished.

I informed him that I did not wish her bad at all. Quite the contrary.

“I mean, professor, is it worth fifty bucks to you?” he demanded.

“If she fits the specifications,” I said firmly. “Ten dollars now, and the rest June first.”

“Then we can do business.” Dingy Joe became genial. “I have just the babe, to a T. Her name is Helen Ferguson, and she works in a beanery around the corner. She knows music—her uncle is second piccolo in the city symphony. She knows politics —she has another uncle been indicted for misappropriation of city funds. Football—her brother’s the best paid amateur in town. Books—her cousin runs one on the ponies. And she’s a ash blond if she hasn’t changed her mind since yesterday.”

HELEN FERGUSON proved to be an attractive, friendly, talkative person having, to the outward eye, every characteristic Seymour had specified. Over a plate of pork and beans Dingy Joe confided what I had seen fit to tell him—that I had a lonely friend who, in Dingy Joe’s words, “has a yen for blonds who know football and music and politics and books,” and would she care to meet him.

Helen Ferguson admitted herself agreeable to the idea. She had, she said, with a look at Dingy Joe, been lonely herself of late, and a little social diversion would not come amiss. This established, I paid Dingy Joe the ten dollars—all I had —and immediately got in touch with Seymour.

The introduction was arranged without difficulty, and I could see from the expression on Seymour’s face that he was favorably impressed.

In fact, he at once made a date with Miss Ferguson for the fraternity dance to take place the next evening.

Well satisfied, I left them alone. I even whistled a lilting tune as I walked back to the house.

The next afternoon I called upon Ann Dexter. She came to the door quickly, but when I greeted her she did not at once reply.

“Oh,” she remarked, after a moment, “it’s you, PYeddie.”

“Ann,” I informed her, following her into the living room, “I have news for you.”

“About Seymour?” she asked quickly. I nodded.

“He has been run over by a truck?” she suggested. “He has met the girl whom he described to us,” I told her.

Ann’s face hardened.

“The hussy!” she said, with scorn. “And I suppose he is making a fool of himself over her.”

“He is taking her to the formal tonight,” I said. “I am glad I am not going,” Ann declared. “Dances are foolish wastes of time and energy. I am glad you do not dance, Freddie.”

“As you say, I do not dance,” I agreed. “But I have borrowed my uncle’s car for tonight.”

“It will be a lovely night fora drive,” Ann agreed, somewhat absently. “What did you say this girl’s name is?”

“Helen FYrguson. She is of Scottish ancestry, besides fitting the other specifications.”

“For years I have felt there was something about Seymour I did not like,” Ann said bitterly, her lips curling. “I realize now what it is. He has no taste.”

“Perhaps you are right,” I agreed. “By the way, what is that peculiar snapping sound from the next room?”

“That is father,” Ann told me. “He is practicing hitting a mark from across the room with his rhinoceros-hide whip. I am afraid he is very bitter toward you, PYeddie.”

“Toward me?” I protested. “But I have done nothing !”

“He thinks you have. He thinks you destroyed his ash tray and his Ming vase.”

PYom the next room came the sound of something crashing. I rose.

“For your sake, to avoid unpleasantness, I will leave,” I told Ann.

“I am afraid it is too late, Freddie. He seems to be coming in here. You might be able to hide behind the couch, though.”

Footsteps were indeed advancing toward the living room. In accordance with Ann’s wishes, I concealed myself behind the couch. An instant later I heard Mr. Dexter’s voice.

“Has that destructive young scoundrel shown up yet, Ann?” Mr. Dexter growled.

“Not yet, father,” I heard Ann reply. “I will let you know if he does.” .

“I’m prepared for him,” Me? Dexter said, and chuckled savagely. “I can pick a quarter off the window sill from twenty feet now. Ha! My ash trav! My Ming vase! And my bowl of prize goldfish !”

“Your goldfish? Surely, father, he has not destroyed your goldfish?”

“You must have heard the bowl crash just now,” Ann’s father told her grimly. “My aim was bad. I consider it part of the score against him.”

He retired again into his library, and I emerged. “Some day soon,” I told Ann, “I shall inform your father of his error. At the moment I have to study for a blue book. Suppose I meet you tonight at the Log Cabin, instead of coming here?”

“Very well, Freddie,” she agreed. “The Log Cabin. Good-by.”

“Good-by, Ann,” I said, and left. As I went out the door, I could hear Mr. Dexter practicing with his whip again.

THE PROBLEM before me did not, I concluded at this point after carefully viewing it from all angles, present any considerable difficulty. Seymour had told Ann that he sought a girl of a certain description, and that description Helen Ferguson fitted. I felt that I could count upon Seymour’s own natural obstinacy, of which he had more than his share, to prevent him from admitting to Ann any change in his views, at least for the present. It was only necessary for me to make her realize that Seymour was unworthy of her, before Seymour changed his mind, and that, conversely, she could count upon me to the death.

That night, when we paused for a snack at the Green Mill, I spoke of the matter to her.

“Ann,” I told her, “never forget that there is one man upon whom you can count to the death.”

“Is there, PYeddie?” she asked. “Who is it?” “Myself, Ann.”

“Oh, you,” Ann said tenderly.

In silence for a time we stared at the moon which was casting silver ripples upon the water.

“Ann,” I said presently, “June third is coming steadily closer.” “Almost day by day,” Ann murmured.

“If you want to be married before then, Ann, why not marry me?” I proposed.

She started a little.

“No, Freddie!” she said. “No, I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t let you sacrifice yourself. I’ll find some other way.”

“As you wish, Ann,” I agreed, without, however, having any intention of giving up so easily. “But if worst comes to worst, remember that I am here.”

“I will, Freddie,” she said gratefully. “When worst comes to worst, I will turn to you.”

In this manner I pressed my advantage for the next few days. During this time Seymour had neither seen nor communicated with Ann. Furthermore, he scarcely mentioned her name, although she often spoke of him, always in a derogatory manner. Most of the time Seymour went about with an absent look on his face which I rightly attributed to the influence of Helen Ferguson.

June third, however, was fast approaching. It was, I felt, time for decisive action. I was meditating upon this when Seymour entered our room. A general atmosphere of depression enveloped him.

“What is the matter, Seymour?” I enquired. “Are you ill?”

“Am I what?”

“Are you ill?”

“111? Who is ill?” he asked with some effort. “Are you ill, Seymour?”

“Oh, no, no, nothing of the sort. Ill indeed!” He laughed shortly.

“Then what is the matter? Have you”— a chill passed through me at the thought—“have you quarrelled with Helen Ferguson?”

Seymour turned a moody gaze upon me. “Certainly not,” he said irritably. “A wonderful girl, Helen.”

“I was much impressed by her myself,” I

Continued on page 32

Marry Me!

Continued from page 12—Starts on page 10

agreed. “You and she get on well?” “Well? Certainly. Very well,” Seymour muttered, and flung himself down on his bed. “We talk of music. Her uncle, she tells me, is second piccolo of the city symphony. We talk of books. Her cousin is the biggest bookmaker in town. We talk

of politics. Another uncle has been indicted for misappropriation of funds. We talk of football. Her brother is the best paid amateur on cleats. It is very interesting.”

“Clearly, Seymour,” I said heartily, “she is the girl for you. Have you proposed to her yet?”

Seymour started up from the bed. “No,” he grated, “I have not proposed to her yet !”

“Since she answers all your specifications so closely, I should have thought you would have by now,” I told him. “Surely what Ann said is not the truth !”

ConVd on page 34

Continued from page 32

“What did Ann say?” Seymour demanded.

“She said she did not believe you would propose to Helen Ferguson. She said you did not have the courage of your convictions. In the end, she prophesied, you will return to her.”

“She said that, did she?” Seymour exclaimed, between gritted teeth.

“No longer ago than yesterday.”

For a minute or two Seymour breathed heavily.

“She will see,” he muttered presently. “I will propose to Helen Ferguson tonight!”

“I told her you were a man who knew his own mind,” I said approvingly. “I have a suggestion, though. A proposal is a delicate matter. Ordinary surroundings of cinema theatres or highways are hardly appropriate. What is wanted is elegance and quiet, and perhaps some soft music in the background.

“It so happens my Uncle Wilbur, who lives here, will be out of town tonight. I have the keys to his house. Why not invite Helen Ferguson there? There is a phonograph with a large selection of records. There is also a cellarette, if you care for a stiff highball.”

“Freddie,” Seymour said, after a few moments of brooding consideration, “I will do as you suggest. If you care to, you may tell Ann, to show her how little she knows of my character.”

“Trust me, Seymour,” I replied, and departed to make certain arrangements.

THE PREPARATIONS consumed some time, but it was with a feeling of triumph that I called at the Dexter home early that evening. Mr. Dexter, Ann had informed me when I phoned, was not in.

Seymour and Helen Ferguson I left comfortably ensconced within the library of my Uncle Wilbur’s large home, some blocks from the Dexter mansion. Seymour had seemed a bit morose, though Helen had been the same jolly, talkative girl as when I had first seen her, and much appreciative of the quiet elegance of Uncle Wilbur’s possessions.

It was with a feeling of work well done that I pressed the Dexter doorbell.

“Ann,” I remarked, as she ushered me into the living room, “are you aware that day after tomorrow is June third?”

“Yes, Freddie,” she said broodingly.

“Then, Ann,” I said firmly, taking her hands in mine, “the moment has come. You must marry me tonight !” A flicker of strong emotion passed across her face.

“It’s impossible, Freddie!” she exclaimed. “Father would never consent—for one thing.”

“We must disregard him,” I said. “I have arranged for the license, for the ceremony. If you are to win over Helen Mathuson, it is now or never.” Mutely she shook her head.

“Ann,” I told her, “I must tell you that we have both misjudged Seymour. He is now proposing to Helen Ferguson in my Uncle Wilbur’s library.”

Ann’s face hardened.

“He is?”

“He is.”

“In that case, Freddie,” she said, between clenched teeth, “we will be married tonight. Give me only ten minutes to pack.”

Within less than twice that she reappeared, carrying a small bag.

“I have left a note for father,” she announced, “saying that I am eloping with you, Freddie, and that we are taking the sedan. It is in the garage. Here are the keys.”

The sedan proved to be large, and due to my unfamiliarity with it and the narrow winding driveway, I was forced to do considerable manoeuvring in what appeared to be a bare plot of ground, recently spaded, before reaching the street. After some moments of back and forth manoeuvring across this space, Ann remarked:

“I am afraid father will be annoyed, Freddie. This is where he planted his prize gladiolus bulbs that cost him five dollars apiece. I daresay he can replace them, however.”

I made no comment, aside from pointing out the essential stupidity of planting flowers in a driveway, and presently we arrived at my Uncle Wilbur’s home, where I had left my own bag.

“As I do not care ever to set eyes on Seymour again,” Ann stated, “I will remain here and wait for you.”

“I appreciate your feelings, Ann,”

I told her. “I shall not be long.” Somewhat to my annoyance, as I entered the house Seymour came to the door of the library. His hair was dishevelled, and his face haggard.

“Well, Seymour,” I asked. “Have you proposed yet?”

Seymour passed a hand across his brow.

“No,” he said hoarsely. “Not yet. We have been having an entertaining discussion of Helen’s uncle, who is second piccolo for the city symphony.

I did not feel like interrupting.” Before I could reply to this, the front door opened and Ann entered. I pushed Seymour back into the library and shut the door.

“Freddie,” Ann told me, “there seem to be two men coming up the sidewalk. I thought you should know.”

“Are they your father?” I asked tensely.

“I don’t think so,” Ann answered. “Was that Seymour I saw?”

The library door opened and Seymour appeared once more.

“Ann !” he exclaimed.

I again shut the door.

“Ann does not wish to speak to you, Seymour,” I called. “Be a gentleman and respect her wishes.” In spite of my hold upon the knob, Seymour once more managed to open the door.

“Ann!” he cried. “I must talk to you !”

“Seymour,” I began, interposing myself between him and Ann, “Ann does not—”

But at that moment I was interrupted. Two individuals, one of whom I recognized as Dingy Joe, the other being large, with a highly developed chest and shoulders, entered through the front door which Ann had left open.

“Listen, professor!” Dingy Joe said to me as soon as they came in.

“They told us to look for you here, and I come to remind you this is June first and we got a little business to attend to. So how about—”

“Where’s Helen?” the large individual with him interrupted, in an Í unpleasantly bellicose tone. “I come : for my wife. Where is she?”

Seymour and I, perhaps fortunately, were saved the necessity of making a reply by Helen Ferguson ¡ herself. Appearing at the library door, she uttered a squeal and flung ¡ herself into the large individual’s arms.

“Battler!” she cried, in evident joy. “I wasn’t expecting you till tomorrow !”

The reunion took some moments, but it became presently clear that the bulky individual was Battler Ferguson, a heavyweight pugilist just returned from a series of bouts, and that Helen was his wife. Fortunately, the warmth of her greeting dispelled the bellicose mood in which he had arrived, and after thanking Seymour for keeping his wife from being lonely while he was absent, he gave us both bone-crushing handshakes and they departed.

As soon as they had gone, I took Ann’s hand and turned toward the door myself.

“I think we should be going too, Ann,” I remarked. “It is growing rather late and we—”

“Just a second !” Dingy Joe rapped out, seizing my wrist. “Today’s June first and I come here for that other forty bucks I was to get for digging up Helen Ferguson for your boy friend to meet. Now, you gonna come across with it, or do I have to get rough?”

Ann disengaged her hand from mine.

“Perhaps we should step into the library, Seymour,” she remarked, “while Freddie and this gentleman talk over their business.”

“Come across,” Dingy Joe snarled at me, “or I’ll—what’s that?”

We all stood frozen by a sinister snapping sound from outside. Involuntarily Dingy Joe released my wrist. I stepped back.

“I think it is your father, Ann,” I said, and snapped off the hall light.

THE FRONT door burst open, and the bulky figure of Mr. Dexter stood there, dimly revealed. In his hand was his rhinoceros-hide whip.

“Where is the scoundrel who destroyed mygladioluses?” heroared, squinting at us and cracking the whip ferociously.

Dingy Joe, who was closest, must have been touched by the lash, for he uttered a scream and turned to dash up the stairs beside us.

“There he goes!” I cried, and Mr. Dexter, growling bestially deep in his chest, plunged up the stairs in pursuit.

“My gladioluses!” he bellowed. “Gladioh’,” I called after him. “Ann, shall we go now?”

“One moment,” Ann said, switching the light on.

“Ann,” Seymour cried to her, “I have been a blind fool! Freddie has been the cause of all this. It is him who’s kept us apart these last two I weeks.”

“It is he,” I corrected.

From the floor above came a sud-

den commotion, indicating that Mr. Dexter and Dingy Joe had met. Mingled with the crack of the rhinoceros-hide whip were guttural growls and wild cries of distress.

“Ann,” Seymour exclaimed, “Freddie has tricked us! He introduced me to Helen Ferguson deliberately to cause trouble between us. He’s a thorough-going scoundrel. Ann, will you marry me?”

“I believe that someone is falling down the stairs,” Ann answered.

It was true. Locked in close embrace, Mr. Dexter and Dingy Joe were descending from one step to the next, meanwhile uttering a surprising variety of snarls, cries, and exclamations.

“Ann,” Seymour said insistently, “all our misunderstanding is due to Freddie. So—”

“So,” Ann finished for him, gazing at me with a light in her eyes I had never before seen there, “I realize that all these years I have misjudged Freddie. He always looked so meek and harmless. He still does. But that is not his true self. He has shown qualities of imagination and enterprise I never before suspected in him. Freddie, do you really love me so very much?”

“I do, Ann,” I told her firmly. “Everything Seymour says is true. But I would have stopped at nothing to win you. All is fair in love and war, you remember.”

“Why, Freddie!” Ann exclaimed, and there was a catch in her voice. “I never dreamed—”

But by now Mr. Dexter and Dingy Joe had reached the bottom of the stairs and were separating. Mr. Dexter must have realized his error, for he paid no further attention to Dingy Joe.

“Grab him!” he cried hoarsely, getting to his feet. “Grab him, Ann !” Moving swiftly, Ann snapped out

the light, plunging the hall into semidarkness. She then gave Seymour a strong shove which propelled him staggering into the library, the door of which she slammed and locked from the outside in one motion.

“He got away, father!” she cried clearly. “He’s hiding in the library !”

Mr. Dexter turned his attack to the library door, which he began beating at with his fists. In this he was joined by Dingy Joe, who seized up something heavy with which to make the assault.

Ann slipped her hand into mine.

“Freddie,” she murmured, “I have misjudged you. I apologize. I want you to know that 1 admire you greatly. You have been right all along. Seymour is not the man for me. He has not enough imagination. I think that you and I will be very happy together. And I shall teach you to dance.”

“I will learn if it kills me,” I promised. “And I’ve got an idea. I think I will make a good scenario writer.”

“I knowr you will, Freddie,” Ann breathed. “Now, darling, I think we ought to be going.”

Hand in hand we tiptoed through the front door. Behind us Mr. Dexter and Dingy Joe were now cooperating in hammering upon the library door with Uncle Wilbur’s iron umbrella stand

“Come out here and pay me my forty bucks!” Dingy Joe was shrieking.

“My ash tray! My Ming vase! My goldfish! My gladioluses!” Mr. Dexter howled. “Just wait until I get my hands on you, you collegiate criminal !”

I have often wondered if Seymour succeeded in escaping out of the window before they discovered the key and got the door open.