LITTLE MISS GROUCH
A Narrative Based Upon The Private Log Of Alexander Forsyth Smith's Maiden Transatlantic Voyage
By Samuel Hopkins Adams
With Illustrations by R. M. Crosby
BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press Cambridge 1915
COPYRIGHT, 1914 AND 1915, BY THE BUTTERICK PUBLISHING COMPANY COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY SAMUEL HOPKINS ADAMS
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Published September 1915
"Good-night," she said, "and—thank you"(page 129) Frontispiece
"Aren't you going to speak to me?" 38
Surprise held the Tyro's tongue in leash 52
"Oh, look at that adorable baby!" 74
"Couldn't you lend me five dollars?" 112
Her knight keeping watch over her 144
The Tyro curled his legs under him 166
"You've come through, my boy" 206
LITTLE MISS GROUCH
First day out. Weather horrible, uncertain and squally, but interesting Developments promised Feel fine.
Several tugs were persuasively nudging the Clan Macgregor out from her pier. Beside the towering flanks of the sea-monster, newest and biggest of her species, they seemed absurdly inadequate to the job. But they made up for their insignificance by self-important and fussy puffings and pipings, while, like an elephant harried by terriers, the vast mass slowly swung outward toward the open. From the pier there arose a composite clamor of farewell.
The Tyro gazed down upon this lively scene with a feeling of loneliness. No portion of the ceremonial of parting appertained personally to him. He had had his fair fraction in the form of a crowd of enthusiastic friends who came to see him off on his maiden voyage. They, however, retired early, acting as escort to his tearful mother and sister who had given way to uncontrollable grief early in the proceedings, on a theory held, I believe, by the generality of womankind in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary, that a first-time voyager seldom if ever comes back alive. Lacking individual attention, the Tyro decided to appropriate a share of the communal. Therefore he bowed and waved indiscriminately, and was distinctly cheered up by a point-blank smile and handkerchief flutter from a piquant brunette who liked his looks. Most people liked his looks, particularly women.
In the foreground of the dock was an individual who apparently didn't. He was a fashionable and frantic oldish-young man, who had burst through the barrier and now jigged upon the pier-head in a manner not countenanced by the Society for Standardizing Ballroom Dances. At intervals he made gestures toward the Tyro as if striving, against unfair odds of distance, to sweep him from the surface of creation. As the Tyro had never before set eyes upon him, this was surprising. The solution of the mystery came from the crowd, close-pressed about the Tyro. It took the form of an unmistakable sniffle, and it somehow contrived to be indubitably and rather pitifully feminine. The Tyro turned.
At, or rather underneath, his left shoulder, and trying to peep over or past it, he beheld a small portion of a most woe-begone little face, heavily swathed against the nipping March wind. Through the beclouding veil he could dimly make out that the eyes were swollen, the cheeks were mottled; even the nose—with regret I state it—was red and puffy. An unsightly, melancholy little spectacle to which the Tyro's young heart went out in prompt pity. It had a habit of going out in friendly and helpful wise to forlorn and unconsidered people, to the kind of folk that nobody else had time to bother about.
"What a mess of a face, poor kiddy!" said the Tyro to himself.
From the mess came another sniffle and then a gurgle. The Tyro, with a lithe movement of his body, slipped aside from his position of vantage, and the pressure of the crowd brought the girl against the rail. Thereupon the Seven Saltatory Devils possessing the frame of the frantic and fashionable dock-dancer deserted it, yielding place to a demon of vocality.
"I think he's calling to you," said the Tyro in the girl's ear.
The girl shook her head with a vehemence which imparted not so much denial as an "I-don't-care-if-he-is" impression.
Stridently sounded the voice of distress from the pier. "Pilot-boat," it yelled, and repeated it. "Pilot! Pilot! Come—back—pilot-boat."
Again the girl shook her head, this time so violently that her hair—soft, curly, luxuriant hair—loosened and clouded about her forehead and ears. In a voice no more than a husky, tremulous whisper, which was too low even to be intended to carry across the widening water-space, and therefore manifestly purposed for the establishment of her own conviction, she said:
"I wo-won't. I won't. I WON'T!!!" At the third declaration she brought a saber-edged heel down square upon the most afflicted toe of a very sore foot which the Tyro had been nursing since a collision in the squash court some days previous. Involuntarily he uttered a cry of anguish, followed by a monosyllabic quotation from the original Anglo-Saxon. The girl turned upon him a baleful face, while the long-distance conversationalist on the dock reverted to his original possession and faded from sight in a series of involuted spasms.
"What did you say?" she demanded, still in that hushed and catchy voice.
"'Hell,'" repeated the Tyro, in a tone of explication, "'is paved with good intentions.' It's a proverb."
"I know that as well as you do," she whispered resentfully. "But what has that to do with—with me?"
"Lord! What a vicious little spitfire it is," said he to himself. Then, aloud: "It was my good intention to remove that foot and substitute the other one, which is better able to sustain—"
"Was that your foot I stepped on?"
"It was. It is now a picturesque and obsolete ruin."
"It had no right to be there."
"But that's where I've always kept it," he protested, "right at the end of that leg."
"If you want me to say I'm sorry, I won't, I won't—I—"
"Help!" cried the Tyro. "One more of those 'won'ts' and I'm a cripple for life."
There was a convulsive movement of the features beneath the heavy veil, which the Tyro took to be the beginning of a smile. He was encouraged. The two young people were practically alone now, the crowd having moved forward for sight of a French liner sweeping proudly up the river. The girl turned her gaze upon the injured member.
"Did I really hurt you much?" she asked, still whispering.
"Not a bit," lied the Tyro manfully. "I just made that an excuse to get you to talk."
"Indeed!" The head tilted up, furnishing to the Tyro the distinct moulding, under the blurring fabric, of a determined and resentful chin. "Well, I can't talk. I can only whisper."
"Well, it's none of my business," conceded the Tyro. "But you rather looked as if—as if you were in trouble, and I thought perhaps I could help you."
"I don't want any help. I'm all right." To prove which she began to cry again.
The Tyro led her over to a deck-chair and made her sit down. "Of course you are. You just sit there and think how all-right you are for five minutes and then you will be all right."
"But I'm not going back. Never! Never!! Nev-ver!!!"
"Certainly not," said the Tyro soothingly.
"You speak to me as if I were a child!"
"So you are—almost."
"That's what they all think at home. That's why I'm—I'm running away from them," she wailed, in a fresh access of self-commiseration.
"Running away! To Europe?"
"Where did you think this ship was bound for?"
"But—all alone?" queried the other, thunderstruck.
"All alone?" She contrived to inform her whisper with a malicious mimicry of his dismay. "I suppose the girls you know take the whole family along when they run away. Idiot!"
"Go ahead!" he encouraged her. "Take it out on me. Relieve your feelings. You can't hurt mine."
"I haven't even got a maid with me," mourned the girl. "She got left. F-f-father will have a fu-fu-fit!"
"Father was practicing for it, according to my limited powers of observation, when last seen."
"What! Where did you see him?"
"Wasn't it father who was giving the commendable imitation of a whirling dervish on the pier-head?"
"Heavens, no! That's the—the man I'm running away from."
"The plot thickens. I thought it was your family you were eluding."
"Everybody! Everything! And I'm never coming back. There's no way they can get me now, is there?"
A reiterated word of the convulsive howler on the dock had stuck in the Tyro's mind. "What about the pilot-boat?"
"Oh! Could they? What shall I do? I won't go back. I'll jump overboard first. And you do nothing but stand there like a ninny."
"Many thanks, gentle maiden," returned her companion, unperturbed, "for this testimonial of confidence and esteem. With every inclination to aid and abet any crime or misdemeanor within reach, I nevertheless think I ought to be let in on the secret before I commit myself finally."
"It—it's that Thing on the dock."
"So you led me to infer."
"He wants to marry me."
"Well, America is the land of boundless ambitions," observed the young man politely.
"But they'll make me marry him if I stay," came the half-strangled whisper. "I'm engaged to him, I tell you."
"No; you didn't tell me anything of the sort. Why, he's old enough to be your father."
"Older!" she asseverated spitefully. "And hatefuller than he is old."
"Why do such a thing?"
"I didn't do it."
"Then he did it all himself? I thought it took two to make an engagement."
"It does. Father was the other one."
"Oh! Father is greatly impressed with our acrobatic friend's eligibility as son-in-law?"
"Well, of course, he's got plenty of money, and a splendid position, and all that. And I—I—I didn't exactly say 'No.' But when I saw it in the newspapers, all spread out for everybody to read—"
"Hello! It got into the papers, did it?"
"Yesterday morning. Father put it in; I know he did. I cried all night, and this morning I had Marie pack my things, and I made a rush for this old ship, and they didn't have anything for me but a stuffy little hole 'way down in the hold somewhere, and I wish I were dead!"
"Oh, cheer up!" counseled the Tyro. "I've got an awfully decent stateroom—123 D, and if you want to change—"
"Why, I'm 129 D. That's the same kind of room in the same passage. Do you call that fit to live in?"
Now the Tyro is a person of singularly equable temperament. But to have an offer which he had made only with self-sacrificing effort thus cavalierly received by a red-nosed, blear-eyed, impudent little chittermouse (thus, I must reluctantly admit, did he mentally characterize his new acquaintance), was just a bit too much.
"You don't have to accept the offer, you know," he assured her. "I only made it to be offensive. And as I've apparently been successful beyond my fondest hopes, I will now waft myself away."
There was some kind of struggle in which the lachrymose maiden's whole anatomy seemed involved, and then a gloved hand went out appealingly.
"Meaning that you're sorry?" inquired the Tyro sternly.
Some sounds there are which elude the efforts of the most onomatopoeic pen. Still, as nearly as may be—
"Buh!" said the damsel. "Buh—huh—huh!"
"Oh, in that case." The Tyro turned back.
There was a long pause, while the girl struggled for self-command, during which her squire had time to observe with some surprise that she had a white glove on her left hand and a tan one on her right, and that her apparel seemed to have been put on without due regard to the cardinal points of the compass. Through the veil she perceived and interpreted his appraisal.
"I'm a dowdy frump!" she lamented, half-voiced. "I dressed myself while Marie was packing. But you needn't be so—so supercilious about it."
"I'm not," protested he, conscience-stricken.
"You are! When you look at me that way I hate you! I'm not sorry I was nasty to you. I'm glad! I wish I'd been nastier!"
The Tyro bent upon her a fascinated but baleful regard. "Angel child," said he in sugared accents, "appease my curiosity. Answer me one question."
"I won't. What is it?"
"Did you ever have your ears boxed?"
"Never!" she said indignantly.
"I thought as much."
"You'd like to do it, perhaps."
"I'd love to. It would do me—I mean you—so much good."
"Maybe I'll let you if you'll help me get away. I know they'll find me!" At the prospect the melancholy one once more abandoned herself to the tragedy of existence. "And you don't do a thing but m-m-make fu-fu-fun of me."
Contrition softened the heart of the Tyro. "Oh, look here, Niobe," he began.
"My name isn't Niobe!"
"Well, your nature's distinctly Niobish. I've got to call you something."
"You haven't! You haven't got to ever speak to me again. They'll find me, and catch me, and send me back, and I'll marry that—that Creature, if that's what you want."
This was the argumentum ad hominem with a vengeance. "I want? What on earth have I got to do with it?"
"Nothing! Nobody has anything to do with it. Nobody gives a—a—a darn for me. Oh, I wish I were back home!"
"Now you're talking sense. The pilot-boat is your play."
"Oh! And you said you'd help me." And then the last barrier gave way, and the floods swept down and immersed speech for the moment.
"Oh, come! Brace up, little girl." His voice was all kindness now. "If you're really bound to get away—"
"I am," came the muffled voice.
"But have you got any place to go?"
"My married sister's in London."
"I can show you a cablegram if you don't believe me."
"That's all right, then. I'll take a chance. Now for one deep, dark, and deadly plot. If the pilot-boat is after you, they'll look up your name and cabin on the passenger list."
"I didn't give my real name."
"Oho! Well, your father might wire a description."
"It's just the kind of thing he would do."
"Therefore you'd better change your clothes."
"No. I'd better not. This awful mess is a regular disguise for me."
"And if you could contrive to stop crying—"
"I'm going to cry," said the young lady, with conviction, "all the way over."
"You'll be a cheerful little shipmate!"
"Don't you concern yourself about that," she retorted. "After the pilot leaves, you needn't have me on your mind at all."
"Thank you. Well, suppose you join me over in yonder secluded corner of the deck in about two hours. Is there anybody on board that knows you?"
"How do I know? There might be."
"Then stay out of the way, and keep muffled up as you are now. Your own mother wouldn't recognize you through that veil. In fact I don't suppose I'd know you myself, but for your voice."
"Oh, I don't always whisper. But if I try to talk out loud my throat gets funny and I want to c-c-cry—"
"Quit it! Stop. Brace up, now. We'll bluff the thing through somehow. Just leave it to me and don't worry."
"And now," queried the Tyro of himself, as he watched the forlorn little figure out of sight, "what have I let myself in for this time?"
With a view to gathering information about the functions, habits, and capacities of a pilot-boat, he started down to the office and was seized upon the companionway by a grizzled and sunbaked man of fifty who greeted him joyously.
"Sandy! Is it yourself? Well met to you!"
"Hello, Dr. Alderson," returned the young man with warmth. "Going over? What luck for me!"
"Why? Need a chaperon?"
"A cicerone, anyway. It's my first trip, and I don't know a soul aboard."
"Oh, you'll know plenty before we're over. A maiden voyager is a sort of pet aboard ship, particularly if he's an unattached youth. My first was thirty years ago. This is my twenty-seventh."
"You must know all about ships, then. Tell me about the pilot."
"What about him? He's usually a gay old salt who hasn't been out of sight of land for—"
"That isn't what I want to know. Does he take people back with him?"
"Hello! What's this? Don't want to back out already, do you?"
"No. It isn't I."
"Somebody want to go back? That's easily arranged."
"No. They don't want to go back. Not if they can help it. But could word be got to the pilot to take any one off?"
"Oh, yes. If it were sent in time. A telegram to Quarantine would get him, up to an hour or so after we cast off. What's the mystery, Sandy?"
"Tell you later. Thanks, ever so much."
"I'll have you put at my table," called the other after him, as he descended the broad companionway.
So the pilot-boat scheme was feasible, then. If the unknown weeper's father had prompt notice—from the disciple of Terpsichore, for example—he might get word to the pilot and institute a search. Meditating upon the appearance and behavior of the dock-dancer, the Tyro decided that he'd go to any lengths to see the thing through just for the pleasure of frustrating him.
"Though what on earth he wants to marry her for, I don't see," he thought. "She ought to marry an undertaker."
And he sat down to write his mother a pilot-boat letter, assuring her that he had thus far survived the perils of the deep and had already found a job as knight-errant to the homeliest and most lugubrious girl on the seven seas. At the warning call for the closing of the mails he hastened to the rendezvous on deck. She was there before him, still muffled up, still swollen of feature, and still, as he indignantly put it to himself, "blubbering."
Meantime there had reached the giant ship Clan Macgregor a message signed by a name of such power that the whole structure officially thrilled to it from top to bottom. The owner of the name demanded the instant return, intact and in good order, C.O.D., of a valuable daughter, preferably by pilot-boat, but, if necessary, by running the ship aground and sending said daughter ashore in a breeches-buoy, or by turning back and putting into dock again. In this assumption there was perhaps some hyperbole. But it was obvious from the stir of officialdom that the signer of the demand wanted his daughter very much and was accustomed to having his wants respectfully carried out. One feature of the message would have convinced the Tyro, had he seen it, of the fatuity of fatherhood. It described the fugitive as "very pretty."
The search was thorough, rigid, and quite unavailing. The reason why it was unavailing was this: At the moment when that portion of the chase to which the promenade deck was apportioned, consisting of the second officer, the purser, and two stewards, approached the secluded nook where the Tyro stood guardian above the feminine Fount of Tears, they beheld and heard only a young man admonishing a stricken girl in unmistakably fraternal terms:
"Now, Amy, you might just as well stop that sniveling. [The Tyro was taking a bit of revenge on the side.] You can't change your stateroom. There isn't another to be had on board. And if it's good enough for Mother, I think it ought to be good enough for you. Do have some gumption, Amy, and cut out the salty-tear business. Come on down and eat."
The pursuit passed on, and an hour later the pilot-boat chugged away passengerless; for even the mightiest cannot hold indefinitely an ocean liner setting out after a possible record. Almost at the moment that the man of power received a message stating positively that his daughter was not on the Clan Macgregor that perverse little person was saying to her preserver, who—foolish youth—had expected some expression of appreciation:—
"What do you mean by calling me Amy? I hate the name."
"Short for 'amiability,' your most obvious quality."
"You're a perfect pig!" retorted the lady with conviction.
The Tyro made her a low bow. "Oh, pattern of all the graces," said he, "I accept and appreciate the appellation. The pig is a praiseworthy character. The pig suffereth long and is kind. The pig is humble, pious, a home-lover and a home-stayer. You never heard of a pig changing his heart and running away across the seas on twelve hours' notice, because things didn't go exactly to suit him. Did you, now? The pig is mild of temper and restrained of speech. He always thinks twice before he grunts. To those that use him gently the pig is friendly and affectionate. Gratitude makes its home in that soft bosom. Well has the poet sung:—
"How rarer than a serpent's tooth It is to find a thankless pig!
"The pig does not grouch nor snap nor stamp upon the feet of the defenseless. Finally and above all, he does not give way to useless tears and make red the lovely pinkness of his shapely nose. Proud am I to be dubbed the Perfect Pig."
"Oh!" said the tearful damsel, and potential murder informed the monosyllable.
"See here," said the Tyro persuasively: "tell me, why are you so cross with me?"
"Because you pitied me."
"Anybody would. You look so helpless and miserable."
"I'm not muh-muh-miserable!"
"I beg your pardon. Of course you're not. Any one could see that."
"I am. But I don't care. I won't be pitied. How dare you pity me! I hate people that—that go around pitying other people."
"I'll promise never to do it again. Only spare my life this time. Now I'm going to go away and stop bothering you. But if you find things getting too dull for you during the voyage, I'll be around somewhere within call. Good-bye, and good luck."
A little hand went out to him—impulsively.
"I am sorry," came the whisper—it was almost free of tragic effect this time—"and I really think you—you're rather a dear."
The Tyro marched away in the righteous consciousness of having done his full duty by helpless and unattractive girlhood. The girl retired presently to her cabin, and made a fair start on her announced policy of crying all the way from America to Europe. When, however, the ship met with a playful little cross-sea and began to bobble and weave and splash about in the manner of our top-heavy leviathans of travel, she was impelled to take thought of her inner self, and presently sought the fresh and open air of the deck lest a worse thing befall her. There in a sheltered angle she snuggled deep in her chair, and presently, braced by the vivifying air, was by way of almost enjoying herself. And thither fate drove the Tyro, with relentless purpose, into her clutches.
With his friend Alderson, who had retrieved him late in the afternoon after he had unpacked, the Tyro was making rather uncertain weather of it along the jerking deck, when an unusually abrupt buck-jump executed by the Macgregor sent him reeling up against the cabin rail at the angle behind which the girl sheltered.
"Let's stop here for a minute," panted Alderson. "Haven't got my sea-legs yet." There was a pause. "Did I see you making yourself agreeable to a young person of the dangerous sex a couple of hours ago?"
"Agreeable? Well, judging by results, no. I doubt if Chesterfield himself could have made himself agreeable to Little Miss Grouch."
"Little Miss Grouch. Don't know her real name. But that's good enough for descriptive purposes. She's the crossest little patch that ever grew up without being properly spanked."
"Where did you run across her?"
"Oh, she wrecked my pet toe with a guillotine heel because I ventured to sympathize with her."
"Oh," commented the experienced Alderson. "Sympathy isn't in much demand when one is seasick."
"It wasn't seasickness. It was weeps for the vanished fatherland; such blubbery weeps! Poor little girl!" mused the Tyro. "She isn't much bigger than a minute, and so forlorn, and so red-nosed, and so homely, you couldn't help but—"
At this moment a drunken stagger on the part of the ship slewed the speaker halfway around. He found himself looking down upon a steamer-chair, wherein lay a bundle swathed in many rugs. From that bundle protruded a veiled face and the outline of a swollen nose, above which a pair of fixed eyes blazed, dimmed but malevolent, into his.
"Er—ah—oh," said the Tyro, moving hastily away. "If you'll excuse me I think I'll just step over the rail and speak to a fish I used to know."
"What's the matter?" inquired Alderson suspiciously, following him. "Not already!"
"Oh, no. Not that. Worse. That bundle almost under our feet when I spoke—that was Little Miss Grouch."
Alderson took a furtive glance. "She's all mummied up," he suggested; "maybe she didn't hear."
"Oh, yes, she did. Trust my luck for that. And I said she was homely. And she is. Oh, Lord, I wouldn't have hurt her poor little feelings for anything."
"Don't you be too sure about her being so homely. Any woman looks a fright when she's all bunged up from crying."
"What's the difference?" said the Tyro miserably. "A pretty girl don't like to be called homely any more than a homely one."
"There's where you're off, my son," returned Alderson. "She can summon her looking-glass as a witness in rebuttal."
"Anyway, I've put my foot in it up to the knee!"
"Oh, go up to-morrow when she's feeling better and tell her you were talking about the ship's cat."
"I'd show better sense by keeping out of her way altogether."
"You'll never be able to do that," said the sea-wise Alderson. "Try to avoid any one on shipboard and you'll bump into that particular person everywhere you go, from the engine-room to the forepeak. Ten to one she sits next to you at table."
"I'll have my seat changed," cried the other in panic. "I'll eat in my cabin. I'll fast for the week."
"You be a game sport and I'll help you out," promised his friend. "All hands to repel boarders! Here she comes!"
Little Miss Grouch bore down upon them with her much-maligned nose in the air. As she maneuvered to pass, the ship, which had reached the climax of its normal roll to port, paused, and then decided to go a couple of degrees farther; in consequence of which the young lady fled with a stifled cry of fury straight into the Tyro's waiting arms. Alderson, true to his promise, extracted her, set her on her way, and turned anxiously to his young friend.
"Did she bite you?" he inquired solicitously.
"No. You grabbed her just in time. This affair," he continued with profound and wretched conviction, "is going to be Fate with a capital F."
Meantime, in the seclusion of her cabin, the little lady was maturing the plot of deep and righteous wrath. "Wait till to-morrow," she muttered, hurling her apparel from her and diving into her bunk. "I'll show him," she added, giving the pillow a vicious poke. "He said I was homely! (Thump!) And red-nosed. (Plop!) And cross and ugly! (Whack!) And he called me Little Miss Grouch. And—and gribble him!" pursued the maligned one, employing the dreadful anathema of her schoolgirl days. "He pitied me. Pitied! Me! Just wait. I'll be seasick and have it over with! And I'll cry until I haven't got another tear left. And then I'll fix him. He's got nice, clear gray eyes, too," concluded the little ogress with tigerish satisfaction. "Ouch! where's the bell!"
For several hours Little Miss Grouch carried out her programme faithfully and at some pains. Then there came to her the fairy godmother, Sleep, who banished the goblins, Grief and Temper, and worked her own marvelous witchery upon the weary girl to such fair purpose that she awoke in the morning transformed beyond all human, and more particularly all masculine, believing. One look in her glass assured her that the unfailing charm had worked.
She girded up her hair and went forth upon the war-path of her sex.
Second day out. A good deal of weather of one kind and another. Might be called a what-next sort of day. I think I am going to like this old ocean pretty well.
Where beauty is not, constancy is not. This perspicuous proverb from the Persian (which I made up myself for the occasion) is cited in mitigation of the Tyro's regrettable fickleness, he—to his shame be it chronicled—having practically forgotten the woe-begone damsel's very existence within eighteen short hours after his adventure in knight-errantry. Her tear-ravaged and untidy plainness had, in that brief time, been exorcised from memory by a more potent interest, that of Beauty on her imperial throne. Setting forth the facts in their due order, it befell in this wise:—
At or about one bell, to be quite nautical, the Tyro awoke from a somewhat agitated sleep.
"Hold on a minute!" protested he, addressing whatever Powers might be within hearing. "Stop the swing. I want to get out!"
He lifted his head and the wall leaned over and bumped it back upon the pillow. Incidentally it bumped him awake.
"Must be morning," he yawned. A pocket-knife and two keys rolled off the stand almost into the yawn. "Some weather," deduced the Tyro. "Now, if I'm ever going to be seasick I suppose this is the time to begin." He gave the matter one minute's fair and honorable consideration. "I think I'll be breakfasting," he decided, and dismissed it.
Having satisfied an admirable appetite in an extensive area of solitude, he weaved and wobbled up the broad stairs and emerged into the open, where he stood looking out upon a sea of flecked green and a sky of mottled gray. Alderson bore down upon him, triangulating the deck like a surveyor.
"Trying out my sea-legs," he explained. "How does this strike you as an anti-breakfast roll?"
"Hasn't struck me that way at all," said the Tyro. "I feel fine."
"Welcome to the Society of Seaworthy Salts! These are the times that try men's stomachs, if not their souls. Come along."
The pair marched back and forth past a row of sparsely inhabited deck-chairs, meeting in their promenade a sprinkling of the hardier spirits of the ship community.
"Have you seen Miss Melancholia this morning?" asked Alderson.
"No, thank Heaven! I didn't dare go in to breakfast till I'd peeked around the corner to make sure she wasn't there."
"Wait. She'll cross your bows early and often."
"Don't! You make me nervous. What a beast she must think me!"
"Here comes a girl now," said his friend maliciously. "Prepare to emulate the startled fawn."
The Tyro turned hastily. "Oh, that's all right," he said, reassured. "She's wholly surrounded by a masculine bodyguard. No fear of its being Little Miss Grouch."
A sudden roll of the ship opened up the phalanx, and there stood, poised, a Wondrous Vision; a spectacle of delight for gods and men, and particularly for the Tyro, who then and there forgot Little Miss Grouch, forgot Alderson, forgot his family, his home, his altars and his fires, and particularly his manners, and, staring until his eyes protruded, offered up an audible and fervent prayer to Neptune that the Clan Macgregor might break down in mid-ocean and not get to port for six months.
"Hello!" said Alderson. "Why this sudden passion for a life on the ocean wave?"
"Did you see her?"
"See whom? Oh!" he added, in enlightenment, as the escort surged past them. "That's it, is it, my impressionable young friend? Well, if you're planning to enter those lists you won't be without competition."
The Tyro closed his eyes to recall that flashing vision of youth and loveliness. He saw again the deliciously modeled face tinted to warmest pink, a figure blent of curves and gracious contours, a mouth of delicate mirth, and eyes, wide, eager, soft, and slanted quaintly at an angle to madden the heart of man.
"Is there such an angel as the Angel of Laughter?" asked the Tyro.
"Not in any hierarchy that I know," replied Alderson.
"Then there ought to be. Do you know her?"
"Who? The Angel of—"
"Don't guy me, Dr. Alderson. This is serious."
"Oh, these sudden seizures are seldom fatal."
"Do you know her?" persisted the Tyro.
The Tyro sighed. Meantime there progressed the ceremony of enthroning the queen in one of the most desirable chairs on the deck, while the bodyguard fussed eagerly about, tucking in rugs, handing out candy, flowers, and magazines, and generally making monkeys of itself. (I quote the Tyro's regrettable characterization of these acts of simple courtesy.)
"But I know some of her admirers," continued the other. "The lop-eared youth on the right is young Sperry, son of the famous millionaire philanthropist and tax-dodger, Diedrick Sperry. He'll be worth ten millions one of these days."
"Slug!" said the Tyro viciously.
"That huge youngster at her feet is Journay, guard on last year's Princeton team. He's another gilded youth."
"Unfledged cub," growled the Tyro.
"Very nice boy, on the contrary. The bristly-haired specimen who is ostentatiously making a sketch of her is Castleton Flaunt, the illustrator."
"The languid, brown man with the mustache is Lord Guenn, the polo-player."
"You don't seem favorably impressed with the lady's friends."
"Hang her friends! I want to know who she is."
"That also might be done. Do you see the tall man coming down the deck?"
"The old farmer with the wispy hair?"
"Precisely. That 'farmer' is the ablest honest lawyer in New York. Also, he knows everybody. Oh, Judge Enderby," he hailed.
"Howdy, Alderson," responded the iron-gray one. "Glad to see you. Now we shall have some whist."
"Good! Judge, do you know the pretty girl over yonder, in that chair?"
The judge put up an eyeglass. "Yes," he said.
"Tell my young friend here who she is, will you?"
A cavernous chuckle issued from between the lawyer's rigid whiskers. "Because I like his looks."
"Well, I like hers, sir," said the Tyro naively.
"Very likely, young man. Very likely. So I'm helping to keep you out of trouble. That child is pretty enough to give even an old, dried-up heart like mine the faint echo of a stir. Think of the devastation to a young one like yours. Steer clear, young man! Steer clear!"
And the iron-gray one, himself an inveterate sentimentalist, passed on, chuckling over his time-worn device for quickening romance in the heart of the young by the judicious interposition of obstacles. He strolled over to the center of attraction, where he was warmly greeted. To the Wondrous Vision he said something which caused her to glance over at the Tyro. That anxious youth interpreted the look as embodying something of surprise, and—could it be?—a glint of mischief.
"Never mind," said Alderson, "I dare say we can find some way, some time to-day or to-morrow."
"To-morrow!" broke in the Tyro fretfully. "Do you realize that this voyage is only a five-day run?"
"Oh, Youth! Youth!" laughed the older man. "Are you often taken this way, Sandy?"
The Tyro turned upon him the candor of an appealing smile. "Never in my life before," he said. "I give you my word of honor."
"In that case," said his friend, with mock seriousness, "the life-saving expedition will try to get a rescue-line to the craft in distress."
With obvious hope the Tyro's frank eyes interrogated Judge Enderby as he returned from his interview.
"Still of the same mind, young man?"
"Want to know her?"
"I do, indeed!"
"Very well. You have your wish."
"You're going to present me?"
"I? No, indeed."
"You say you wish to know her. Well, you do know her. At least, she says she knows you. Not all of us attain our heart's desire so simply."
"Know her!" cried the amazed Tyro. "I swear I don't. Why, I could no more forget that face—"
"Don't tell her that or she'll catch you up on it since she knows you have forgotten."
"What is her name?"
"Ah, that I'm forbidden to tell. 'If he has forgotten me so easily,' said she—and she seemed really hurt—'I think I can dispense with his further acquaintance.'"
"If I should break through that piffling bodyguard now—"
"If you want some rather high-priced advice for nothing," said the old and mischievous lawyer, "don't do it. You might not be well received."
"Are you in the secret, then?"
"Secret? Is there any secret? A very charming girl who says she knows you finds herself forgotten by you. And you've been maladroit enough to betray the fact. Naturally she is not pleased. Nothing very mysterious in that."
Thereupon the pestered youth retired in distress and dudgeon to his cabin to formulate a campaign.
Progress, however, seemed slow. It was a very discontented Tyro who, after luncheon, betook himself to the spray-soaked weather rail and strove to assuage his impatience by a thoughtful contemplation of the many leagues of ocean still remaining to be traversed. From this consideration he was roused by a clear, low-pitched, and extraordinarily silvery voice at his elbow.
"Aren't you going to speak to me?" it said.
The Tyro whirled. For a moment he thought that his heart had struck work permanently, so long did it remain inert in his throat. A sense of the decent formalities of the occasion impelled him to make a hasty catch at his cap. As he removed it, an impish windgust snatched it away from his nerveless grasp and presented it to a large and hungry billow, which straightway swallowed it and retired with a hiss of acknowledgment like a bowing Jap.
The Tyro paid not the slightest heed to his loss. With his eyes fixed firmly upon the bewitching face before him,—these apparitions vanish unless held under determined regard,—he cautiously reached around and pinched himself. The Vision interpreted his action, and signalized her appreciation of it by a sort of beatified chuckle.
"Oh, yes; you're awake," she assured him, "and I'm real."
"Wishes do come true," he said with the profoundest conviction.
Up went the Vision's quaintly slanted brows in dainty inquiry, with further disastrous results to the young man's cardiac mechanism.
"Have yours come true?"
"You have," he averred.
"Then you're glad to see me again?"
Again? Again? Here it behooved him to go cautiously. Inwardly he cursed the reticence of Judge Enderby with a fervor which would have caused that aged jurist the keenest delight. Then he made one more despairing call upon the reserve forces of memory. In vain. Still, he mustn't let her see that. Play up and trust to happy chance!
"Glad!" he repeated. "Don't you hear a sound of inner music? That's my heart singing the Doxology."
"Very pretty," the girl approved. "How is the poor foot?"
"Much better, thank you. Did you see that murderous assault?"
"See it? I?" The Vision opened wide eyes of astonishment.
"Yes. I didn't notice you in the crowd."
She gave him a long look of mock-pathetic reproach from under drooped lids. "Oh, false and faithless cavalier. You've forgotten me. Already!"
"Once seeing you, I couldn't forget you in ten thousand years," he cried. "There's some mistake. I don't know you."
Her laughter rippled about him like the play of sunlight made audible.
"Oh, antidote to vanity, look at me," she commanded.
"It's the very easiest task ever man was set to," he asserted with such earnestness that the color rose in her cheeks.
"Before I vanish forever, I'll give you your chance. Come! Who am I? One—two—thuh-ree-ee."
"Wait! You're Titania. You're an Undine of the Atlantic. You're the White Hope, becomingly tinged with pink, of American Womanhood. You're the Queen of Hearts and all the rest of the trumps in the deck. You are also Cleopatra, and, and—Helen of Troy. But above all, of course, to me you are the Sphinx."
"And you," she remarked, "are a Perfect Pig. 'The pig is a praiseworthy character. The pig suffereth—'"
"Little Miss Grouch!" The words burst from him with the propulsive energy of total amazement. The next instant he was submerged in shame.
"I never saw anyone's ears turn scarlet before," she observed, with delicate and malicious appreciation of the phenomenon.
"It's a symptom of the last decay of the mind. But are you really the—the runaway girl?"
"I really am, thanks to your help."
"But you look so totally different."
"Well," she reminded him. "You said you probably wouldn't recognize me when you saw me again."
"I don't wholly believe in you yet. How did you work the miracle?"
"Not a miracle at all. I just took the advice of a chance acquaintance and cheered up."
"Then please stay cheered up and keep this shape. I like it awfully."
"It's very hard to be cheerful when one is forgotten overnight," she complained.
"There's some excuse for me. You didn't have on this—this angel-cloth dress; and you looked so—"
"Dowdy," she put in promptly. "So you said—quite loud."
"Be merciful! I never did really get a good look at you, you know. Just the tip of your nose—"
"Help! And a glimpse of your face through a mess of veils—"
"Such a mess of a face."
"Spare my life! How can I apologize properly when you—"
"You're beyond all apology. Couldn't you at least recognize my voice? I'm supposed, in spite of my facial defects, to have rather a pleasant voice."
"But, you see, you didn't do anything but whisper—"
"And blubber. It isn't a pretty word, but I have it on good authority."
"I'll commit suicide by any method you select."
She regarded thoughtfully her downcast victim, and found him good to look at. "So you prefer me in this form, do you?" she taunted.
"Infinitely. It couldn't be improved on. So if you've any more lightning changes up your sleeve, don't spring 'em. What does this particular manifestation of your personality call itself?"
"Little Miss Grouch."
"Don't be vengeful."
"That was the changeling."
"At any rate, it isn't Amy, short for amiability. To you I shall continue to be Little Miss Grouch until further notice."
"Is that my punishment?"
"Part of it."
"Well, I can stand it if you can," he declared recklessly. "What's the rest?"
"I think," she said, after deliberating with herself, "that I shall sentence you to slavery. You are to be at my beck and call until you've attained a proper pitch of repentance and are ready to admit that I'm not as hopelessly homely as you told your friend."
"Homely!" cried the harassed youth. "I think you're the most wond—hum!" He broke off, catching himself just in time. "You say this slavery business is to last until I make my recantation?" he inquired cunningly.
He assumed a judicial pose. "Calls for consideration. Would you mind tilting the face a little to the left?"
"Gracious! Another artist? Mr. Flaunt has been plaguing me all the morning to sit to him."
"No, I'm not an artist. Simply a connoisseur. Now that I look more closely, your eyebrows are slanted a full degree too much to the north."
"My nurse was a Jap. Do you think Oriental influence could account for it?" she asked anxiously.
"And at the corner of your mouth there is a most reprehensible dimple. Dimples like that simply ought not to be allowed. As for your nose—"
"Never mind my nose," said she with dignity. "It minds its own business."
"No," he continued, with the air of one who sums up to a conclusion. "I cannot approve the tout ensemble. It's interesting. And peculiar. And suggestive. But too post-impressionistic."
"That is quite enough about me. Suppose you change the subject now and account for yourself."
"I? Oh, I came along to frustrate the plots of a wicked father."
"He isn't a wicked father! And I didn't ask you why you're here. I want to know who you are!"
"I'm the Perfect Pig."
Little Miss Grouch stamped her little French heel. As it landed the young man was six feet away, having retired with the graceful agility of a trained boxer.
"You're very light on your feet," said she.
"Therein lies my only hope of self-preservation. You were not very light on my foot yesterday, you know."
"Has it recovered enough to take me for a walk?"
"Still," she added, ruminating, "ought I to go walking with a man whose very name I don't know?"
"My name? Do you think that's fair, when you won't tell me yours? Besides, I don't believe you'd care about it, anyway."
"Why shouldn't I?"
"Well, it isn't very impressive. People have even been known to jeer at it."
"You're ashamed of it?"
"No-o-o-o," said the Tyro artfully.
"You are! I'd be ashamed to be ashamed of my name—even if it were Smith."
"Hello! What's the matter with Smith?" demanded the young man, startled at this unexpected turn.
"Oh, nothing," said she loftily, "except that it's so awfully common. Why, there are thousands of Smiths!"
"Common? Well, I'll be jig—" At this point, resentment spurred the ingenuity of the Tyro to a prompt and lofty flight. "If you don't like Smith," he said, "I wonder what you'll think when you hear the awful truth."
"Very well," he sighed. "I suppose it's foolish to have any feeling about it. But perhaps you'd be sensitive, too, if you'd been born to the name of Daddleskink."
"Daddleskink," said the Tyro firmly. "Sanders Daddleskink. Suppose you were Mrs. Sanders Daddleskink."
"I shan't suppose any such thing," she retorted indignantly.
"I warned you that you wouldn't like it."
"Like it? I don't even believe it. There ain't no such animile as a Daddleskink."
"Madame," said the Tyro, drawing himself up to his full height, "I would have you understand that, uneuphonious as the name may seem, the Daddleskinks sat in the seats of the mighty when our best-known American families of to-day, such as the Murphys, the Cohens, the Browns, Joneses, and Robinsons, were mere nebulous films of protoplasmic mud."
"Oo-ooh!" said Little Miss Grouch, making a little red rosebud of her mouth. "What magnificent language you use."
"Genealogists claim," continued the young man, warming to his subject, "that the family came from Provence and was originally De Dalesquinc, and that the name became corrupted into its present form. My friends often call me Smith for short," he concluded, in sudden inspiration.
"Very tactful of them," she murmured.
"Yes. You might have had the privilege, yourself, if you hadn't derided the name of Smith. Now, aren't you sorry?"
"I shall not call you Smith," declared the girl. "I shall call you by your own name, Mr. Sanders Daddle—Oh, it simply can't be true!" she wailed.
Chance sent Alderson along the deck at this moment. "Hello, Dr. Alderson," called the Tyro.
"Hello, Sandy!" said the other.
"You see," said the Tyro in dismal triumph.
Scant enough it was, as corroboration for so outrageous a facture as the cognomen Daddleskink, but it served to convince the doubter.
"At least, you have the satisfaction of being unusual," she consoled him.
"If you regard it as a satisfaction. Can you blame me for denouncing my fate? How will you like introducing such a name to your friends?"
"I'm not going to introduce you to my friends. I'm going to keep you for myself. Solitary confinement."
"Solitude a deux? That's a mitigation. Oh, beautiful—I mean to say plain but worthy incognita, suppose I ferret out the mystery of your identity for myself?"
"I put you on honor. You're to ask no questions of any one. You're not even to listen when anyone speaks to me. Do you promise?"
"May my eyes be blasted out and my hopes wrecked by never seeing you again, if I be not faithful," he said.
But Fate arranges these matters to suit its more subtle purposes.
The Wondrous Vision had dismissed her slave, giving him rendezvous for the next morning,—he had pleaded in vain for that evening,—and he was composing himself to a thoughtful promenade, and to the building of air-castles of which the other occupant was Little Miss Grouch, when he became aware of a prospective head-on collision. He side-stepped. The approaching individual did the same. He sheered off to port. The other followed. In desperation he made a plunge to starboard and was checked at the rail by the pursuer.
"I wish to speak to you," announced a cold and lofty voice.
The Tyro emerged from his glorious abstraction, to find himself confronted by a middle-aged lady with violent pretensions to youth, mainly artificial. Some practitioners of the toilet-table paint in the manner of Sargent; others follow the school of Cecilia Beaux; but this lady's color-scheme was unmistakably that of Turner in his most expansive mood of sunset, burning ships, and volcanic eruptions.
By way of compensation, she wore an air of curdled virtue, and carried her nose at such an angle that one expected to see her at any moment set the handle of her lorgnette on the tip thereof, and oblige the company with a few unparalleled feats of balancing.
Surprise held the Tyro's tongue in leash for the moment. Then he came to. Here was another unexpected lady evidently relying upon that tricky memory of his. Very well: this time it should not betray him!
"How do you do?" he said, seizing her hand and shaking it warmly. "I'm so glad to see you again."
She withdrew the captured member indignantly. "Again? Where have you ever seen me before?" she demanded.
"Just what I was trying to think," murmured the Tyro. "Where have I seen you?"
The colorful lady lifted her glasses and her nose at one and the same moment. "I am Mrs. Denyse," she informed him. "Mrs. Charlton Denyse. You may know the name."
"I may," admitted the Tyro, unfavorably impressed by the manner in which she was lorgnetting him, "but I don't at the moment recall it."
Exasperation flashed in Mrs. Denyse's cold eyes. She had spent much time and trouble and no small amount of money advertising that name socially in New York, and to find it unknown was a reflection upon the intelligence of her investment. "Where on earth do you come from, then?" she inquired acidly.
"Oh, all over the place," he answered with a vague gesture. "Mainly the West."
"So one would suppose. It doesn't matter. I wish you to read this." She thrust a folded newspaper page into his hand, adding: "It is only fair to you to say that I speak with the authority permissible to kinship."
"Kinship? Do you mean that you're related to me?"
"Certainly not! Be good enough to look at the paper and you will understand."
The Tyro was good enough to look, but, he reflected with regret, he wasn't clever enough to understand.
The first column was given up to a particularly atrocious murder in Harlem. The second was mainly political conjecture. In the center of the page was a totally faceless "Portrait of Cecily Wayne, Spoiled Darling of New York and Newport, whose engagement to Remsen Van Dam has Just Been Announced." Beyond, there was a dispatch about the collapse of the newest airship, and, on the far border, an interview with the owner of the paper, in which he personally declared war on most of Central America and half of Europe because a bandit who had once worked on a ranch of his had been quite properly tried and hanged for several cold-blooded killings.
"You will gain nothing by delay," said the lady impatiently.
"I give it up," confessed the Tyro, returning the paper. "You'll have to tell me."
"Even the most impenetrable stupidity could not overlook the announcement of Remsen Van Dam's engagement."
"Oh, yes; I saw that. But as I don't know Mr. Van Dam personally, it didn't interest me."
"Still, possibly you're not so extremely Western as not to know who he is. He's the sole surviving representative of one of the oldest houses in New York."
"Barns, not houses," corrected the other gently. "His father was the Van Dam coachman. He made his pile in some sort of liniment, and helped himself to the Van Dam name when it died out."
For Mrs. Denyse to redden visibly was manifestly impossible. But her plump cheeks swelled. "How dare you rake up that wretched scandal!" she demanded.
"Scandal? Not at all," replied the Tyro mildly. "You see, I happen to know. My grandmother was a Miss Van Dam."
"It must have been of some other family," said the lady haughtily. "I beg to inform you that Remsen Van Dam is my cousin."
"Really! I'm awfully sorry. Still—you know,—I dare say he's all right. His father—the real name was Doody—was an excellent coachman. I've often heard Grandma Van say so."
Mrs. Denyse after a time recovered speech by a powerful effort, and her first use of it was to make some observations upon the jealousy of poor relations.
"But this is profitless," she said. "You will now appreciate the desirability of guarding your conduct."
"In what respect?"
Mrs. Denyse pointed majestically to the pictorial blur in the paper. "Perhaps you don't recognize that," she said.
"I don't. Nobody could."
"That's true; they couldn't," she granted reluctantly. "But there's the name beneath, Cecily Wayne. I suppose you can read."
"I can. Who is Cecily Wayne?"
"Of all the impudence!" cried the enraged lady. "As you've been making yourself and her conspicuous all the afternoon—"
"Oh!" exclaimed the Tyro, a great light breaking in upon him. "So that's Cecily Wayne. It's a pretty name."
"It's a name that half of the most eligible men in New York have tried their best to change," said the other with emphasis. "Remsen Van Dam is not the only one, I assure you."
"Then the apostle of St. Vitus on the dock was Remsen Van Dam! Well, that's all right. She isn't engaged to him. The paper's wrong."
"Pray, how can you know that?"
"A little bird—No; they don't have little birds at sea, do they? A well-informed fish told me."
"Then I tell you the opposite. Now I trust that you will appreciate that your attentions to Miss Wayne are offensive."
"They don't seem to have offended her."
"Where did you know her? Who are you, anyway?" snapped his inquisitress, her temper quite gone.
The Tyro leaned forward and fixed his gaze midway of the lady's adequate corsage.
"If you want to know," said he, "you're carrying my favor above your heart, or near it, this minute. Look on the under side of your necktie."
The indignant one turned the scarf and read with a baleful eye: "Smitholder: Pat. April 10, 1912." "What does Smitholder mean?" she demanded.
"A holder for neckwear, the merits of which modesty forbids me to descant upon, invented by its namesake, Smith."
"Ah," said she, with a great contempt. "Then your name, I infer, is Smith."
He bowed. "Smith's as good a trade name as any other."
"Very well, Mr. Smith. Take my advice and keep your distance from Miss Wayne. Otherwise—"
"Well, otherwise?" encouraged the Tyro as she paused.
"I shall send a wireless to my cousin. And to Mr. Wayne. I suppose you know, at least, who Hurry-up Wayne of Wall Street is."
"Never heard of him," said the Tyro cheerfully.
"You're a fool!" said Mrs. Charlton Denyse, and marched away, with the guerdon of Smith heaving above her outraged and ample bosom.
Third day out. All kinds of doings, weather and otherwise. This is a queer old Atlantic.
Overnight, Mrs. Charlton Denyse (wife of an erstwhile Charley Dennis who had made his pile in the wheat-pit) was a busy person. Scenting social prestige, of which she was avid, in connection with Cecily Wayne, she had sought to establish herself as the natural protectress of unchaperoned maidenhood and had met with a well-bred, well-timed, and well-placed snub.
Thick of skin, indeed, must they be who venture into the New York social scramble, and Mrs. Denyse shared at least one characteristic of the rhinoceros. Nothing daunted by her failure with the daughter, she proceeded to invest a part of the Dennis pile in wireless messages to Henry Clay Wayne, on the basis of her kinship with Remsen Van Dam. In the course of time these elicited replies. Mrs. Denyse was well satisfied. She was mingling in the affairs of the mighty.
She was also mingling in the affairs of the Tyro. To every one on board whom she knew—and she was expert in making or claiming acquaintance—she expanded upon the impudence of a young nobody named Smith who was making up to Cecily Wayne, doubtless with a hope of capturing her prospective millions. Among others, she approached Judge Enderby, and that dry old Machiavelli congratulated her upon her altruistic endeavors to keep the social strain of the ship pure and undefiled, promising his help. He it was who suggested her appealing to the captain.
As I have indicated, Judge Enderby in his unprofessional hours had an elfish and prank-some love of mischief.
Quite innocent of plots and stratagems formulating about him, the Tyro tried all the various devices made and provided for the killing of time on shipboard, but found none of them sufficiently lethal. At dinner he had caught a far glimpse of Little Miss Grouch seated at the captain's table between Lorf Guenn and the floppy-eared scion of the house of Sperry. Later in the evening he had passed her once and she had given him the most casual of nods. He went to bed with a very restless wonder as to what was going to happen in the morning, when she had promised to walk with him again.
Nothing happened in the morning. Nothing, that is, except an uncertain bobble of sea, overspread by a wind-driven mist which kept the wary under cover. The Tyro tramped endless miles at the side of the indefatigable Dr. Alderson; he patrolled the deck with a more anxious watchfulness than is expected even of the ship's lookout; he peered into nooks and corners; he studied the plan of the leviathan for possible refuges; he pervaded the structure like a lost dog. Useless. All useless. No Little Miss Grouch anywhere to be seen.
At noon he had given up hope and stood leaning against a stanchion in morose contemplation of a school of porpoises. They were very playful porpoises. They seemed to be actually enjoying themselves. That there should be joy anywhere in that gray and colorless world was, to the Tyro, a monstrous thing. Then he turned and beheld Little Miss Grouch.
She sat, muffled up in a steamer chair, just behind him. Only her eyes appeared, bright and big under the quaintly slanted brows; but that was enough. The Tyro was under the impression that the sun had come out.
"Hel-lo!" he cried. "How long have you been there?"
"One minute, exactly."
"Isn't it a glorious day?" said the Tyro, meaning every word of it.
"No; it isn't," she returned, with conviction. "I think this is a very queer-acting ship."
"No! Do you? Why, I supposed all ships acted this way."
"Well, they don't. I don't like it. I haven't been feeling a bit well."
The Tyro expressed commiseration and sympathy.
"You look disgustingly fit," she commented.
"I? Never felt so well in my life. A minute ago, I won't say. But now—I could burst into poetry."
"Do," she urged.
"All right, I will. Listen. It's a limerick. I made it up out of the fullness of my heart, and it's about myself but dedicated to you.
"There once was a seaworthy child Whose feelings could never be riled. While the porpoises porped—"
"There's no such word as 'porped,'" she interrupted.
"Yes, there is. There has to be. Nothing else in the world acts like a porpoise; therefore there must be a word meaning to act like a porpoise; and that word is the verb 'to porp.'"
"You're an ingenious lunatic," she allowed.
"Dangerous only when interrupted. I will now resume my lyric:—
"While the porpoises porped And the passengers torped—"
"The passengers what-ed?"
"Torped. What you've been doing this morning."
"I haven't!" she denied indignantly.
"Of course you have. You've been in a torpor, haven't you? Well, to be in a torpor, is to torp. Now I'm going to do it all over again, and if you interrupt this time, I'll sing it.
"There once was a seaworthy child Whose feelings could never be riled. While the porpoises porped And the passengers torped, He sat on the lee rail and smiled."
"Beautiful!" she applauded. "I feel much better already."
"Don't you think a little walk would put you completely on your feet?" he inquired.
"On yours, more probably." She smiled up at him. "Come and sit down and tell me: are you a poet, or a lunatic, or a haberdasher, or what kind of a—a Daddleskink are you?"
"Haberdasher? Why should I be a haberdasher?"
"An acquaintance of yours has been talking—trying to talk to me about you. She said you were."
"She seems a fearfully queer person, and quite excited about you. There was something about you and a necktie, and—and Mr. Van Dam, and then I escaped."
"Oh! The necktie. Why, yes, I suppose I am a sort of haberdasher, come to think of it."
"I'm glad you're not ashamed of your business if you are of your name. You told her it was Smith."
"Did I? I don't remember that I did, exactly. Even so, what would be the use of wasting a really good name on her? She wouldn't appreciate it."
"Mr. De Dalesquinc—"
"Daddleskink," corrected the Tyro firmly.
"Very well," she sighed. "Daddleskink, then. Wasn't that Dr. Alderson, the historian, that you were walking with yesterday?"
"Yes. Do you know him?"
"Only by correspondence. He did some research work on my house."
"Your house. Do you inhabit a prehistoric ruin, that Alderson should take an interest in it?"
"I call it mine. It isn't really—yet. It doesn't belong to anybody."
"Then why not just go and grab it? Squatter sovereignty, I believe they call the process."
"I thought it was called jumping a claim. Somebody has a claim on it. But that doesn't count. I always get what I want."
"Yes," she purred.
"I said 'unfortunate maiden.' Life must be fearfully dull for you."
"It isn't dull at all. It's delightful!"
"As witness day before yesterday. Were you getting what you wanted then?"
"I wanted a good cry, and I got it. And I don't want to talk about it. If you're going to be stupid—"
"Tell me about the prehistoric ruin," he implored hastily.
"It isn't a ruin at all. It's the cunningest, quaintest, homiest little old house in all New York."
"I'm sorry," he said in the tone of one who reluctantly thwarts another's project.
"What are you sorry about?" She drew down the slanted brows with a delicious effect of surprise.
"I'm sorry; but you can't have that house."
"Now, you take any other house in New York that you want," she cajoled. "Fifth Avenue is still nice. Any one can live on Fifth Avenue, though. But to have a real house on Battery Place—that's different."
"My idea exactly."
She sat bolt upright. "You aren't serious. You don't mean the mosaic-front house with the little pillars?"
"The oldest house left on Battery Place. That's it."
"And you claim it's yours?"
"Practically. I don't exactly own it—"
"Then you never will. I've wished it in," she announced with the calmness of finality.
"Think how good for you it would be not to get something you wanted. The tonic effect of a life-size disappointment—"
"No," she said, shaking her head violently, "it wouldn't be good for me at all. I should cry and become a red-nosed mess again. I'm—going—to—have—that—house. Why, Mr. Dad—Mr. Smi—Mr. Man," she cried, with a gesture of desperation, "I've owned that house in my mind for five years."
"Five years! I've owned it for five generations."
"Are you claiming that it's your family place?"
"It is. Is it yours? Are you my long-lost cousin, by any chance? Welcome to my arms—coat of arms, I mean."
"What would that be?" she inquired mischievously, "a collar-button, fessed—"
"Bending above a tearful maiden rampant. The legend, 'Stand on your own feet; if you don't, somebody else will.'"
"I don't think I can boast any cousin named Daddleskink," she observed. "Anyway, we're not New Yorkers. We came from the West."
"Where the money is made," he commented.
"To the East where it is spent," she concluded.
"Why spend it buying other people's houses?"
"Daddleskink Manor," ruminated the girl, in mocking solemnity. "Shall you restore the ancient glory of the name? By the way, Dr. Alderson's researches don't seem to have brought your clan to light, in the records of the house."
"Oh, my interest is on my mother's side," said the Tyro hastily. "That's why I'm buying the property."
"You're not!" said the girl, with a little stamp of her foot. Her companion moved back apprehensively. "Can you pay a million dollars for it?"
"No. Can you?"
"Never mind. Dad said he'd get it for me if—if—well, he promised to, anyway."
"If you'd marry the marionette who recently faded from view?"
"Far be it from me," said the Tyro modestly, "to enter the lists against so redoubtable a champion on such short notice. Still, if you are marrying real estate, rather than wealth, intellect, or beauty, I may mention that I've got an option on that very house, and that it will cost me pretty much every cent I've made since I left college to pay for it."
"That you've made? Haven't you got any money of your own?"
"Whose do you suppose the money I've made is?"
"But anything to live on, I mean. Do you have to work?"
"Oh, no. The poorhouse is contiguous and hospitable. But I've always had a puerile prejudice against pauperdom as a career."
"You know what I mean," she accused. "Haven't your people got money?"
"Enough. And they can use what they have. Why should they waste it on me?"
"But the men I know don't have to work," said the young lady.
There was nothing patronizing or superior in her tone, but the curiosity with which she regarded her companion was in itself an irritant.
"Oh, well," he said, "after you've bought an old historic house and maybe a coat of arms, I dare say you'll come to know some decent citizens by and by."
"You mustn't think I have any feeling about your working," she explained magnanimously. "Lots of nice men do. I know that. Only I don't happen to know them. Young men, I mean. Of course dad works, but that's different. I suppose Mrs. Denyse told you who dad is."
"She did. But I didn't know any more after she got through telling than before."
The slanted brows went up to a high pitch of incredulity. "Where in the world do you live?"
"Why, I've been in the West mostly for some years. My work has kept me there."
"Oh, your haberdashery isn't in New York?"
"My haber—er—well—no; that is, I don't depend on the—er—trade entirely. I'm a sort of a kind of a chemist, too."
"In a college?" inquired the young lady, whose impressions of chemistry as a pursuit were derived chiefly from her schooldays.
"Mainly in mining-camps. Far out of the world. That's why I don't know who you and your father are."
"Don't you really? Well, never mind us. Tell me more about your work," she besought, setting the feminine pitfall—half unconsciously—into which trapper and prey so often walk hand in hand.
He answered in the words duly made and provided for such occasions: "Not much to tell," and, as the natural sequence, proceeded to tell it, encouraged by her interested eyes, at no small length.
Little Miss Grouch was genuinely entertained. From the young men whom she knew she had heard sundry tales of the wild, untamed portions of our country, but these gilded ones had peeked into such places from the windows of transcontinental trains, or lingered briefly in them on private-car junkets, or used them as bases of supply for luxurious hunting-trips. Here was a youth—he looked hardly more—who had gone out in dead earnest and fought the far and dry West for a living, and, as nearly as she could make out from this gray-eyed Othello's modest narrative, had won his battle all along the line.
I am violating no confidence in stating that this was the beginning of trouble for Little Miss Grouch, though she was far from appreciating her danger at the time, or of realizing that her dire design of vengeance was becoming diluted with a very different sentiment.
"So," concluded the narrator, "here I am, a tenderfoot of the ocean, having marketed my ore-reducing process for a sufficient profit to give me a vacation, and also to permit of my buying a little old house on the Battery."
"I'm sorry," said Little Miss Grouch, imitatively.
"What are you sorry for?"
"Your disappointment. Still, disappointment is good for the soul. Anyway, I'm not going to quarrel with you now. You're too brutal. I think I'm feeling better. How do I look?"
"Like a perfect wond—hum!" broke off the Tyro, nearly choking over his sudden recollection of the terms of acquaintance. "I can't see any improvement."
"Perhaps walking would help. They say the plainest face looks better under the stimulus of exercise. Is your foot fit to walk on?"
"It's fit for me to walk on," said the Tyro cautiously.
"Come along, then," and she set out at a brisk, swinging stride which told its own tale of pulsing life and joyous energy. After half a dozen turns, she paused to lean over the rail which shuts off the carefully caged creatures of the steerage from the superior above.
"My grandfather came over steerage," she remarked casually. "I don't think I should like it."
A big-eyed baby, in its mother's sturdy arms below, caught sight of her and crowed with delight, stretching up its arms.
"Oh," she cried with a little intake of the breath, "look at that adorable baby!"
As she spoke the Tyro surprised in her face a change; a look of infinite wistfulness and tenderness, the yearning of the eternal mother that rises in every true woman when she gazes upon the child that might have been her own; and suddenly a great longing surged over his soul and mastered him for the moment. But the baby was lisping something in German.
"What is it saying?" Little Miss Grouch asked.
"'Pretty-pretty,' substantially," translated the Tyro, recovering himself. "Madam," he continued, addressing the mother, "it is evident that your offspring suffers from some defect of vision. I advise you to consult an oculist at once."
"Bitte?" said the mother, a broad-shouldered, deep-chested young madonna.
"He says," explained Little Miss Grouch, "that it is a beautiful baby, with a wonderful intelligence and unusually keen eyes. What is her name?"
"Karl, lady," said the mother.
"Let's adopt Karl," said the corrected one, to the Tyro. "We'll come here every day, and bring him nougats and candied violets—"
"And some pate de foie gras, and brandied peaches, and dry Martini cocktails," concluded the Tyro. "And then there'll be a burial at sea. What do you think a baby's stomach is, beautiful—er—example of misplaced generosity? Oranges would be more to the purpose."
"Very well, oranges, then. And we'll come twice a day and meet our protege here."
Thus it was arranged in the course of a talk with the mother. She was going back to the Fatherland, she explained, to exhibit her wonderful babe to its grandparents. And if the beautiful lady (here the Tyro shook his head vigorously) thought the captain wouldn't object, the youngster could be handed up over the rail for an occasional visit, and could be warranted to be wholly contented and peaceful. The experiment was tried at once, with such success that the Tyro was presently moved to complain of being wholly supplanted by the newcomer. Thereupon Little Miss Grouch condescended to resume the promenade.
"As our acquaintance bids fair to be of indefinite duration—" began the Tyro, when she cut in:—
"Since it is to last until I belie my better judgment and basely recant my opinion as to your looks."
"You were nearly caught while we were discussing our protege. Well, go on."
"I think you'd best tell me a little about yourself."
"Oh, my life is dull compared with yours," she returned. "Our only interesting problem has been a barn-storming of the doors of New York Society."
"And did you break in?"
For a moment her eyes opened wide. Then she remembered his confessed ignorance and laughed.
With such reservations as she deemed advisable, she sketched briefly for him one of those amazing careers so typical of the swiftly changing social conditions of America.
As she talked, he visualized her father, keen, restless, resolute, a money-hunter, who had bred out of a few dollars many dollars, and out of many dollars an overwhelming fortune; her mother, a woman of clean, fine, shrewd, able New England stock (the Tyro, being of the old America, knew the name at once); and the daughter, born to moderate means, in the Middle West, raised luxuriously on the basis of waxing wealth, educated abroad and in America in a school which shields its pupils from every reality of life and forces their growth in a hothouse atmosphere specially adapted to these human orchids, and then presented as a finished product for the acceptance of the New York circle which, by virtue of much painful and expensive advertising in the newspapers, calls itself Society.
Part of this she told him, qualifying the grossness of the reality by her own shrewd humor; part he read between the lines of the autobiography.
What she did not reveal to him was that she was the most flattered and pampered heiress of the season; courted by the great and shining ones, fawned on by the lesser members of the charmed circle, the pet and plaything of the Sunday newspapers—and somewhat bored by it all.
The siege of society had been of farcical ease. Not her prospective millions nor her conquering loveliness, either of which might eventually have gained the entree for her, would have sufficed to set her on the throne. Shrewd social critics ascribed her effortless success to what Lord Guenn called her "You-be-d——d" air.
The fact is, there was enough of her New England mother in Cecily to keep her chin up. She never fawned. She never truckled. She was direct and honest, and free from taint of snobbery, and a society perhaps the most restlessly, self-distrustfully snobbish in the world marveled and admired and accepted. Gay, high-spirited, kind in her somewhat thoughtless way, clever, independent of thought and standard, with a certain sweet and wistful vigor of personality, Cecily Wayne ruled, almost as soon as she entered; ruled—and was lonely.
For the Puritan in her demanded something more than her own circle gave her. And, true to the Puritan character, she wanted her price. That price was happiness. Hence she had fled from Remsen Van Dam.
"But what's become of your promenade deck court?" inquired the Tyro, when he found his attempts to elicit any further light upon her character or career ineffective.
"Scattered," she laughed. "I told them I wouldn't be up until after luncheon. Aren't you flattered?"
"I'm grateful," he said. "But don't forget that we have to call on Karl at four o'clock."
"Well, come and rescue me then from the 'court,' as you call it. Now I must make myself pretty—I mean less homely—for luncheon."
Leaden clogs held back the hands of the Tyro's watch after luncheon. Full half an hour before the appointed time he was on deck, a forehandedness which was like to have proved his undoing, for Judge Enderby, who had taken a fancy to the young man and was moreover amused by the incipient romance, swooped down upon him and inveigled him into a walk. Some five minutes before the hour, the Joyous Vision appeared, and made for her deck-throne attended by her entire court, including several new accessions.
Judge Enderby immediately tightened his coils around his captive. Brought up in a rigid school of courtesy toward his elders, the Tyro sought some inoffensive means of breaking away; but when the other hooked an arm into his, alleging the roll of the vessel,—though not in the least needing the support,—he all but gave up hope. For an interminable quarter of an hour the marplot jurist teased his captive. Then, with the air of one making a brilliant discovery, he said:—
"Why, there's your homely little friend."
"Who?" said the Tyro.
"Little Miss—what was it you called her?—oh, yes, Miss Grouch. Strange how these plain girls sometimes attract men, isn't it? Look at the circle around her. Suppose we join it."
The Tyro joyfully assented. The Queen welcomed Judge Enderby graciously, and ordered a chair vacated for him; young Mr. Sperry, whose chair it was, obeying with ill grace. The Tyro she allowed to stand, vouchsafing him only the most careless recognition. Was he not a good ten minutes late? And should the Empress of Hearts be kept waiting with impunity? Punishment, mild but sufficient for a lesson, was to be the portion of the offender. She gave him no opportunity to recall their appointment. And with a quiet suggestion she set young Sperry on his trail.
Now Mr. Diedrick Sperry, never notable for the most amiable of moods and manners, was nourishing in his rather dull brain a sense of injury, in that he had been ousted from his point of vantage. As an object of redress the Tyro struck him as eminently suitable. From Mrs. Denyse he had heard the story of the pushing young "haberdasher," and his suspicions identified the newcomer.
"Say, Miss Cecily," he said, "why 'n't you interdoose your friend to us?" In defense of the Sperry accent, I may adduce that, by virtue of his wealth and position he had felt at liberty to dispense with the lesser advantages of education and culture; therefore he talked the language of Broadway.
"What? To all of you?" she said lazily. "Oh, it would take much too long."
"Well, to me, anyway," insisted the rather thinly gilded youth. "I bin hearin' about him."
"Very well: Mr. Sperry, Mr. Daddleskink."
She pronounced the abominable syllables quite composedly. But upon Mr. Sperry they produced an immediate effect.
"Wha-at!" he cried with a broad grin. "What's the name?"
"Daddleskink," explained the Tyro mildly. "An umlaut over the K, and the final Z silent as in 'buzz.'"
"Daddleskink," repeated the other. "Daddle—Haw! haw! haw!!"
"Cut it, Diddy!" admonished young Journay, giving him a surreptitious dig in the ribs. "Your work is coarse."
Temporarily the trouble-seeker subsided, but presently above the conversation, which had again become general, his cackling voice was heard inquiring from Judge Enderby:—
"Say, Judge, how do you catch a diddleskink? Haw—haw—haw!"
This was rather further than the Empress intended that reprisals for lese-majeste should go. Still, she was curious to see how her strange acquaintance would bear himself under the test. She watched him from the corner of an observant eye. Would he be disconcerted by the brusqueness of the attack? Would he lose his temper? Would he cheapen himself to answer in kind? What would he do or say?
Habituation to a rough, quick-action life had taught the Tyro to keep his wits, his temper, and his speech. No sign indicated that he had heard the offensive query. He stood quietly at ease, listening to some comments of Lord Guenn on the European situation. Judge Enderby, however, looked the questioner up and down with a disparaging regard and snorted briefly. Feeling himself successful thus far, Sperry turned from a flank to a direct onset.
"Know Mrs. Denyse, Mr. Gazink?" he asked.
"I've met her."
"How? When you were peddlin' neckties and suspenders?"
"No," said the Tyro quietly.
"Doin' much business abroad?" pursued the other.
"No; I'm not here on business. It's a pleasure trip," explained the victim pleasantly.
"Gents' furnishin's must be lookin' up. Go every year?" Mr. Sperry was looking for an opening.
"This is my first trip."
"Your first!" cried the other. "Why, I bin across fifteen times." He conceived the sought-for opening to be before him. "So you're out cuttin' a dash. A sort of haberdash, hey? Haw—haw—haw!" He burst into a paroxysm of self-applausive mirth over his joke, in which a couple of satellites near at hand joined. "Haw—haw—haw!" he roared, stimulated by their support.
The Tyro slowly turned a direct gaze upon his tormentor. "The Western variety of your species," he observed pensively, "pronounce that 'hee-haw' rather than 'haw-haw.'"
There was a counter-chuckle, with Judge Enderby leading. Mr. Sperry's mirth subsided. "Say, what's the chap mean?" he appealed to Journay.
"Oh, go eat a thistle," returned that disgusted youth. "He means you're an ass, and you are. Serves you right."
Sperry rose and hulked out of the circle. "I'll see you on deck—later," he muttered to the Tyro in passing.
Little Miss Grouch turned bright eyes upon him. "Mr. Daddleskink is not addicted to haberdashery exclusively. He also daddles in—"
"Real estate," put in the Tyro.
"Fancy his impudence!" She turned to Lord Guenn. "He wants to buy my house."
"Not the house on the Battery?" said one of the court.
"I say, you know," put in Lord Guenn. "I have a sort of an interest in that house. Had a great-grandfather that was taken in there when he was wounded in one of the colonial wars. The Revolution, I believe you call it."
"Then I suppose you will put in a claim, too, Bertie," said Miss Grouch, and the familiar friendliness of her address caused the Tyro a little unidentified and disconcerting pang.
"Boot's on the other leg," replied the young Englishman. "The house has a claim on us, for hospitality. We paid it in part to old Spencer Forsyth—he was my revered ancestor's friend—when he came over to England after the war. Got a portrait of him now at Guenn Oaks. Straight, lank, stern, level-eyed, shrewd-faced old boy—regular whackin' old Yankee type. I beg your pardon," he added hastily.
"What for?" asked the Tyro with bland but emphatic inquiry.
Lord Guenn was not precisely slug-witted.
"Stupid of me," he confessed heartily. "What should an American gentleman be but of Yankee type? You know,"—he regarded the Tyro thoughtfully,—"his portrait at Guenn Oaks looks a bit like you."
Little Miss Grouch shot a glance of swift interest and curiosity at the Tyro.
"Very likely," he said. "I'm a Yankee, too, and the type persists. Speaking of types, there's the finest young German infant in the steerage that ever took first prize in a baby-show."
As strategy this gained but half its object. Up rose Little Miss Grouch with the suggestion that they all make a pilgrimage to see the Incomparable Infant of her adoption. Much disgruntled, the Tyro brought up the rear. Judge Enderby drew him aside as they approached the steerage rail.
"Young man, are you a fighter?"
"Me? I'm the white-winged dove of peace."
"Then I think I'll warn young Sperry that if he molests you I'll see that—"
"Wait a moment, judge. Don't do that."
"I don't like the notion. A man ought to be able to take care of himself."
"But he's twice your weight. And he's got a record for beating up waiters and cabbies about New York. Now, my boy," the judge slid a gaunt hand along the other's shoulder and paused. The hand also paused; then it gripped, slid along, gripped again.
"Where did you get those muscles?" he demanded.
"Oh, I've wrestled a bit—foot and horseback both," said the other, modestly omitting to mention that he had won the cowboy equine wrestling-match at Denver two years before.
"Hum! That'll be all right. But why did you tell those people your name was Daddleskink?"
"I didn't. Little Miss—Miss Wayne did."
"So she did. Mystery upon mystery. Well, I'm only the counsel in this case; but it isn't safe, you know, to conceal anything from your lawyer."
At this point the voice of royalty was heard demanding the Tyro. The baby, he was informed, wished to see him. If this were so, that Infant Extraordinary showed no evidence of it, being wholly engrossed with the fascinations of his new mother-by-adoption. However, the chance was afforded for the reigning lady to inform her slave that there was to be dancing that evening in the grand salon, and would he be present?
He would! By all his gods, hopes, and ambitions he would!
As he turned by his liege lady's side, an officer approached and accosted him.
"The captain would like to see you in his cabin at once, if you please."
* * * * *
Among those present at the evening's dance was not Alexander Forsyth Smith, alias Sanders Daddleskink. Great was the wrath of Little Miss Grouch.
Fourth day out.
I don't like this ship or anything about it; its laws, its customs, its manners, methods or morals.
I'm agin the government. Maritime law gives me a cramp. Me for the black flag with the skull and cross-bones.
As for this old Atlantic, I'd as soon be at the bottom as at the top—
Peace reigned over that portion of the Atlantic occupied by the Clan Macgregor. The wind had died away in fitful puffs. The waves had subsided. Marked accessions to the deck population were in evidence. Everybody looked cheerful. But Achilles, which is to say the Tyro, sulked in his tent, otherwise Stateroom 123 D.
On deck, Little Miss Grouch sat, outwardly radiant of countenance but privately nursing her second grievance against her slave for that he had failed to obey her behest and appear at the previous evening's dance. Around her, in various attitudes of adoration, sat her court.
Mrs. Charlton Denyse tramped back and forth like a sentinel, watching, not too unobtrusively, the possibly future Mrs. Remsen Van Dam, for she expected developments. In the smoking-room Judge Enderby and Dr. Alderson indulged in bridge of a concentrated, reflective, and contentious species. As each practiced a different system, their views at the end of every rubber were the delight of their opponents. They had finished their final fiasco, and were standing at the door, exchanging mutual recriminations, when the Tyro with a face of deepest gloom bore down upon them.
"How much of the ship does the captain own, Dr. Alderson?" he asked, without any preliminaries.
"He doesn't own any of it."
"How much of it does he boss, then?"
"All of it."
"And everybody on board?"
"No one has any rights at all?"
"None that the captain can't overrule."
"Then he can put me in irons if he likes."
"Why, yes, if there be any such thing aboard, which I doubt. What on earth does he want to put you in irons for?"
"He doesn't. At least he didn't look as if he did. But he seems to think he has to, unless I obey orders. He threatened to have me shut up in my cabin."
"Hullo! And what have you been doing that you shouldn't do?"
"Talking to Little Miss Gr—Wayne."
"If that were a punishable offense," put in Judge Enderby, in his weighty voice, "half the men aboard would be in solitary confinement."