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Title: Believe You Me!
Author: Putnam, Nina Wilcox, 1888-1962
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Believe You Me!" ***

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http://www.fadedpage.net



BELIEVE YOU ME!

NINA WILCOX PUTNAM

AUTHOR OF "ADAM'S GARDEN," "THE IMPOSSIBLE BOY," ETC., ETC.

NEW YORK

GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY

COPYRIGHT, 1919,

BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY

COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



TO R. J. S.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I Ladies Enlist              11

II Pro Bonehead Publico      66

III Holy Smokes!            125

IV Anything Once            156

V Now is the Time           202

VI The Glad Hand            244



BELIEVE YOU ME!

I



LADIES ENLIST

I


I WASN'T going to make no statement about this here affair; and I
wouldn't even yet, only for our publicity man. The day the story leaked
he called me up in the A. M., which is the B. C. of the daytime, and
woke me out of the first perfectly good sleep I'd had since Jim pulled
that stunt and floored me so.

First off, I wouldn't answer the phone; but Musette stood by me with it
in her hand and just made me.

"For my sake, mademoiselle!" says she, just like she used to in our act
on the big time, which we played before I got into the dancing game.
"For my sake, mademoiselle," she says, "do not refuse to talk with the
publicity man!"

Well, when I heard who it was I seen some sense in what she says; so I
set up amid my black-and-white-check bed, which--believe you me--is as
up to date as my latest drawing-room dance. And I grabbed off the phone.

"Yes," says I in a fainting voice; "this is Miss La Tour. What is it,
please? I'm far from well."

"Cut out that stuff, Mary!" says a male voice. "This is Roscoe. I want
you to give out a statement about you and Jim splitting up."

"I _won't!"_ says I, very sharp. "Whatter yer think I am?" I says.
"That's nobody's business but our own!"

"Oh, ain't it, though?" says Roscoe, very sarcastic. "The biggest
parlor-dancing outfit in America busts up and you can't be seen, even,
for two whole days! The stage at the Royal ain't notified that your
piece is called off; the De-Luxe Hotel don't get no notice that you
ain't going to appear; and all the info' I could get when I called up
your flat is that you was gone out!"

"And so I was!" says I, indignant.

"Then I call up Jim's hotel and they say he's gone!" shouted Roscoe.
"Hell!" says he, forgetting that me and the telephone operator both was
ladies. "Hell! What kind of way is that to treat a guy you're paying
three thou. a year to for getting your picture in the paper every time
you sneeze?"

I didn't have any comeback about that, for there was certainly some
truth in what he says. But I wasn't to be put down so easy.

"I guess I know my business, Ros," I says, sharp, "or I wouldn't be
living in a swell flat on the Drive, all fixed up like a furniture shop,
with a limousine and two fool dogs, and earned every cent of it myself,
and no one can say a word against me, if I didn't know my own business.
So there!"

"Looka here, Mary," says Roscoe. "There's going to be a lot of talk up
and down the Rialto if you don't come across with some explanation. I'm
comin' right up to get it."

"No, you don't," I says, for I hadn't had my facial massage in three
days, and, after all, Roscoe is a man, even if press agents ain't
exactly human. "No, you don't, Ros!" I says. "If I gotter make some
statement, I'll write the dope myself and you can fix it up after--see?
It's a big story, but delicate, and I'm going to have no
misunderstanding over it."

"All right, Mary," says Ros. "But you get the stuff ready for the
morning papers. I'll be up for it."

Then he hung up and I knew I had to come across. Besides, Ma come in
just then; and while I may boss my press agent, and even sometimes my
partner and Musette and the two dogs, Ma sorter gets my goat. Ma had on
a elegant rose-silk negligee I give her; and as usual, she had it ruined
by tying a big gingham apron over it, which made her look the size of a
house, but sort of comforting. She stopped by the bed and set both her
hands on her lips--the way she does when she don't mean to be answered
back.

"Now, Mary Gilligan, you get right up and wash your teeth!" says Ma,
"and do your three handsprings and other exercises, decent and proper;
and then eat the breakfast I got cooked for you."

Funny thing, but Ma ain't got a mite of dramatic sense. I just can't
understand it, after her having been with the circus so long on the
trapeze, until she got too heavy after I come; and since then in the
wardrobe-end of the theater, and all. I ain't never been able to break
her in to none of the refinements of life, either, and she will go into
the kitchen for all I say; and some day I just know she'll call me
Gilligan in public. And a nice laugh that'll get!

But, anyhow, I usually do what she says, because Ma is a fine trainer;
and--believe you me--I wouldn't be able to hold on to Jim's neck and
swing out straight twenty times round, like I do--or did--only for her
and her keeping me on the job like she's done. The only other trouble
with Ma is, she can't seem to properly understand that it's my artistic
temperament which has brought in the cash--that and some good looks, and
me realizing that this refined parlor-dancing stuff would go over big.
Of course Jim's being able to wear a dress suit like he'd been born in
it has helped some, even aside from being such a fine partner; which
brings me back, as they say, to the tale.

Well, I done my exercise, and so forth, and then I had Musette bring up
the sofa, a elegant gilt one--for we got what Ma calls Looie-the-Head-Waiter
stuff in our parlor--to the window, so's I could lay and look dreamily
out over the autos on the Drive to the ships in the river; you know--the
German ships which have been taking out their naturalization papers, or
something. And, as I lay there thinking, I come to the conclusion that
if I told about the split I better tell all, including my own
enlistment.

Oh, how well I can now understand why many men enlist, having been
through it all myself! And how then they long to get out, and can't, and
realize that they was boobs! And how they learn that they weren't boobs
after all, once they got used to it! Do you get me?

Well, anyways, I decided to tell the whole story, which, of course,
begun at Ruby Roselle's party.

I think I don't hardly need to state that I don't generally go with that
Roselle crowd. No acrobatic dancer could and keep her health.
And--believe you me--every drawing-room dance act that is worth a
thousand dollars a week has acrobatics, and good sound acrobatics, as
its base. Well! As far as Ruby Roselle and her crowd is concerned, far
be it from me to pass any remarks. But any one in the theatrical line
will tell you that a girl which has made a reputation only on the color
of her hair and is not averse to tights don't have to lead the rigid
life of a first-class A-1 dancer, leaving out all judgments as to
character, which are usually wrong anyways.

But, having said that much, I will only add that I have never gone out a
lot, and seldom without Ma. And while champagne is not exactly a
stranger to me, owing to Jim and me always having to have it served with
our dinner at the Ritz each night--which any one with sense knows is all
publicity stuff and we never drink it--still, I'm not in favor of
champagne parties, which they generally end in trouble; and this one of
Ruby's was no exception.

Indeed, I wouldn't of gone in the first place only for us unfortunately
being on the same bill at the opening of the Superba Roof, which, of
course, being the big midnight show of the year, and the rest of the
leads all having accepted, and Ruby being in so strong with the
management, it would of been bad business policy to refuse.

When I pointed this out to Jim he couldn't see it at first, owing to me
never having gone on such parties; and nobody can say any different,
with truth. But the Superba contract was the biggest thing we had got
yet. And, coming on top of the twenty minutes in Give Us a Kiss, the
twenty minutes at the De-Luxe Hotel, the net profs. was pretty fair.
So, for once, we accepted an invite to one of Ruby's famous blow-outs.

Ruby Roselle's house was something wonderful, but not to my taste, there
being too much in it, besides smelling of cologne and incense, which,
from her singing Overseas in red-white-and-blue tights, was more or less
to be expected. Also, the clothes on her and the other girls was too
elaborate. My simple little real lace, and my hair, which Musette always
does so it looks like I done it myself, made them seem like a Hippodrome
production alongside of a play by this foreigner, Ib-sen--do you get me?
I was proud of this; for--believe you me--getting refinement means work,
just like any other achievement, and I had modeled myself on Mrs. Pieter
van Norden for years, than whom there is surely no one more refined by
reputation, though I had never seen her. I could see Jim felt the same
about all this, and we exchanged a look on it; for, besides being
engaged to be married we was the best of friends when we come in--when
we come in! Remember that!

After we said "How do ye do?" to Ruby, I whispered to Jim not to
celebrate too much. He ain't a drinking man if for no other reasons but
those of my own; but just oncet in a while he'd get a little more than
he should, and this opening night the show had gone awful big. Had he
but heeded me better! Alas! Nothing doing; it was all in vain!

For description of party see any motion-picture film on Vice. Why waste
words on what is so well known? And--believe you me--this was just like
a fillum; and, as I have said, nothing like that for mine, usually. But,
even so, we might of got off safe and home without no trouble--only for
Von Hoffman and the baby alligator.

It seems like this here Von Hoffman was stuck on Ruby; in fact, it was
him that suggested her singing Overseas in that fierce costume. Also, he
gave her the alligator, she having tried to pick on a present he
couldn't possibly get when he wanted to buy her something. But, being
German by descent, he had the efficiency to get it, anyways; and there
was the alligator at the party, about fifteen inches long, with a gold
collar and diamonds in the collar--and we at war!

Well, it seems this alligator hadn't eat since it come; and after Ruby
had a double Bronx and two glasses of champagne the memory of his
hunger began to worry her--do you get me? So she had him brought in and
set in the middle of the supper table on the orchids at two dollars per
each, which he sat on without moving while the crowd tried everything on
him, from olives to wine, with no success. The alligator seemed a awful
boob, for he just lay there like a stuffed one, which we knew he wasn't
on account of his not having eaten.

Well, Jim hadn't heeded me. I guess the truth must be told, though,
honest, he had took but very little; still, being unused to it, the
effect was greater--do you get me? And pretty soon he and this Von
Hoffman was kidding each other and that alligator something fierce.

Now Jim took a hate on this Von Hoffman bird the minute he laid eyes on
him, partly on account of the costume of Ruby, and also on general
principles, because of the bird's accent. But, the alligator not moving
or nothing, Jim asks if the alligator understands only German.

"In all probability," says Von Hoffman; "he is a high-class alligator."

"Then he ought to understand American," says Jim. "He'll have to
eventually; why not now?

"There's nothing to prove that," says the German bird with a sneer. "He
will probably get along very well as he is, with German only."

Jim looked mad as a hatter; but instead of taking it out on this Von
Hoffman, as he had ought to have, he turned on that poor dumb beast.

"Well," says Jim to the alligator, "here's where you learn some
patriotism."

And he leaned 'way across the table until his face was only an inch or
two away from the alligator's. Jim looked that animal straight in the
eye and spoke very severe.

"To hell with Germany!" says Jim.

And with that the alligator snapped--snapped right onto the end of Jim's
nose! Oh, my Gawd, but I yelled! So did Jim--believe you me! And then we
all tried to get that fiend of a pro-German alligator off Jim's face.
When they succeeded in making him let go you had ought to of seen Jim's
nose! It had four holes in it and was bleeding something fierce.

Oh, may I never live to see such a sight again, let alone having to go
through what followed! For once I forgot my refinement completely, and I
remember yelling at Jim to kill that German. For if he didn't sick his
alligator onto Jim, who did? And there he stood laughing at Jim for all
he was worth; and Jim never offered to fight him!

Believe you me, all my sympathy for Jim melted right away when I seen he
wasn't doing nothing but stand there holding on to his nose and moaning.

"I know alligator bites is deadly poison!" He kept saying it over and
over again, while Von Hoffman was laughing himself sick.

"I hope it is poison!" he says. "I hope it is, you jackanapes of an
American dancer!"

At this I walked right up to that Von Hoffman bird.

"I'll get you for this!" I says. "Somehow I know you're a wrong one, and
_I'll_ get you, even if Jim don't want to! I'd enlist to-morrow if I was
a man and get your old Kaiser as well!"

Then, the next thing I knew, me and Jim was in the limousine, on the way
to the hospital; and Jim was still moaning over being poisoned by the
alligator and getting blood all over the place, and the car just
relined and everything! I didn't say a word just then, because, of
course, you must stick to a pal in time of immediate trouble--do you get
me? But I was boiling mad inside, though worried a little about the
poison. Still, Jim's not hitting that bird, Von Hoffman, was worse to me
than death itself.

At the hospital the chauffeur and me got Jim inside somehow and to a
desk in the hall. There was a snappy-looking nurse sitting there with a
book, and our coming in at that hour no more worried her than a fly in
cold weather. She just looked up quiet and spoke--sort of unhospitable.

"Name of ailment?" she inquired.

"Alligator bite!" I told her, brief; and I will say this got her goat a
little, because she made me say it twice more before she would believe
me.

Then she directed us down a long hall, and a young guy in a summer suit
of white duck stopped reading the newspaper long enough to give Jim's
nose the once over.

"No cause for alarm," says this bird. "The nose will be about twice its
normal size for a day, that's all!" All! And, as if that wasn't enough,
he painted the nose and all round it with some brown stuff, which
stopped the bleeding but made Jim look like he was made up for some sort
of comedy act. Jim was perfectly sober by then and quit talking about
poison, and etc., and when he was back in the limousine I just let
myself go and bawled him out good and plenty.

"Now see here, Jim," I says, "I've stuck by you to-night long enough to
make sure you ain't goin' to die or nothin'; and now I'm through!"

"You been just fine, Mary," says Jim, trying to take my hand. I took it
away quick.

"You don't get me!" I says. "I mean I'm through for keeps. The
engagement is broken, and everything!"

"Whatter yer mean--broken?" says Jim, sort of dazed.

"Just that!" I snapped. "Here you get tight and take a insult from a
German; and, as if that wasn't enough, you go farther and get bit by a
pro-German alligator! And you don't even offer to fight the German who
owns the alligator, either! And, what's furthermore, you've got your
face swoll up so's you won't be able to dance to-morrow night; and that
iodine won't wash off; and the act is crabbed in the bud--do you get me?
Crabbed! And I'm through--that's all! So don't never come near me
again!"

Believe you me, Jim tried to make me listen to reason; but I couldn't
hear no reason to listen to, and so wouldn't let him say much. Then Jim
got mad and bawled me out for breaking my rule and going on the party,
and by the time we got to my place we wasn't speaking at all--not even
good night or good-by forever!


II

FOR hours and hours after Ma got me to bed I just lay there thinking and
aching and feeling all hot and ashamed and terribly lonesome, and with
my career all ruined because of the Germans--to say nothing of having
been obliged to become disengaged to Jim.

And then, just as I was nearly crazy wondering how I was to get my
self-respect back, I got a swell idea. I would enlist! Ladies could. I
remembered reading a piece in a newspaper some place about yeowomen or
something. And as soon as I realized that I could serve Uncle Sam and
help get even with that bird, Von Hoffman, and the Kaiser and the
alligator, and lose my personal feelings in public service, I got the
most wonderfully easy feeling round my heart and dropped right off to
sleep. But when I woke up in the morning it was something fierce, the
way I felt. Believe you me, it was just like I had ate Welsh rabbit the
night before, or something--the weight that was on my chest. At first I
couldn't make out just what it was. Then I remembered. I had lost Jim!
Of course I hadn't lost him so much as shook him; but it was all the
same, or looked that way in the cold gray dawn of ten A. M.

Honest to Gawd, I never knew how fond I was of Jim until I woke up that
day and realized he was gone forever! But I wouldn't of phoned him and
say I'd changed my mind--not on a bet I wouldn't. And, anyways, I hadn't
changed my mind. The evidences begun to pile up against him. I commenced
to remember how he had been away on some mysterious trips so many
afternoons for the last four or five months; and maybe with some blonde,
for all I knew. And then his going to pieces like that over a mere
alligator bite, the way he done; and, worst of all, not hitting that
German, even though in pain, and crabbing our act by getting bit on the
nose.

The more I thought about it, the worser I felt, laying there in
retrospect and negligee. And I couldn't see no way of us ever getting
together again--even when he called up and apologized; which, of course,
I expected he would do any minute. But he didn't; and by the time Ma
came in and routed me out of bed I had myself worked up so's I was
crying something terrible, and hating Jim as hard as I could, which
would of been enough to kill him--only for the pain in my heart for
loving him.

While I ate only a light repast of ham and eggs, and a little marmalade,
and etc., Ma made me tell her all; which I done the best way I could
with crying in between. And then I told her about me having made up my
mind to enlist. She was some surprised at that, though not much. Ma,
having lived through two circuses and a trapeze act, it is sort of hard
to surprise her very much--do you get me? So all Ma says was:

"Well, Mary Gilligan!" says she. "Can ladies enlist? I had a idea," she
says, "only gentlemen was permitted."

"No," says I. "I see a piece in the paper where ladies can go in the
navy--yeowomen they call them; a fancy name for a stenographer!"

"A whole lot too fancy!" says Ma, very prompt. "And no daughter of mine,
a decent, respectable girl, is going sailing off on no battleship with a
lot of sailors--not to mention submarines; not if I know it!" says Ma.
"So, Mary Gilligan, you may as well put that idea out of your head, let
alone you ain't a stenographer and couldn't learn it in a month."

"Well, Ma," I says, "maybe you're right; and I do get seasick awful
quick. But--oh, Ma! I got to enlist some place. Can't you see the way I
feel?"

Ma could.

"I know!" she says, very sympathetic. "I was the same when your pa
missed both the third trapeze and the life net. I would of enlisted when
he died if there had been a war. And, of course, you feel like Jim was
dead. How about the Red Cross?"

"Won't do for me," I says, prompt. "I don't see myself sitting around in
no shop, with a dust cloth tied over my head, selling tickets. I got to
do something active or I'll go bugs!"

Then Ma had a real idea.

"How about this here Woman's Automobile Service?" says she. "The one I
read you the piece about? You're a woman and you got a auto."

"Ma, you're a wonder!" I says. "Look up the address while I get my hat
on! Tell Musette to call for the limousine; and watch me make a trial
for my new job!"

So they done like I asked, and I kissed Ma and Musette good-by; also the
two fool dogs, for I had a sort of feeling like I was going into battle
already.

"When Jim calls up tell him it's no good--he can't see me," says I, the
last thing. And then I set off in the limousine.

Well, I'd put on a very simple imported model and a small hat, and only
my diamond earrings, and a brooch Jim had give me, when we was first
engaged, over my aching heart. I wanted, above all things, to look
refined; for, even if the U. S. Army isn't always quite that, still,
this was a ladies' branch of it. And you know what women can
be--especially in organizations; though I admit I hadn't had much
previous experience with them, except the White Kittens, which Ma
insisted on me keeping up with and contributing to their annual ball,
because of she having always belonged. And--believe you me--the scraps I
seen at some of their Execution Committee meetings would make the Battle
of the Marne look like a pinochle post-mortem!

Well, as I was saying, I took no chances on appearances of refinement in
this case, not knowing exactly what class of ladies would be running the
Woman's Automobile Service. And, even when I got to their office, it
took me several minutes before I got the right dope on them and their
line--do you get me?

In the first place, it wasn't at all like the White Kittens'
Headquarters, in the Palatial Hotel ball-room. Instead, it was a shop on
a swell side street, with two very plain capable-looking dark-green
ambulances standing outside. My limousine had to stop next door on
account of them.

Well, I got out and walked across and into that shop. And--believe you
me--it was the plainest place you ever saw; not even so much as a flower
or a rug to give it a womanly touch. But neat! My Gawd! And there was
three young ladies there, all in the snappiest-looking uniforms you ever
want to see--dark green, like the ambulances, with gold on the collar,
and caps like the Oversea's Army, and the cutest leggings! My!

Maybe you think they looked like a chorus? They did not! They was as
business-like as English officers. Over in one corner a frowzy-looking
little dame was sitting, reading a book. There wasn't no unnecessary
furniture in the place, and 'way at the back was a door marked Captain
Worth--Private, which seemed funny.

The minute I come in one of the girls jumped up and says what could she
do for me?

I seen at once she was a perfect lady.

"I am Marie La Tour," I says in a very quiet, low-pitched voice, like a
drawing-room act.

"Yes?" says she. "And what can I do for you, Miss--er----"

"La Tour!" I says again, as patient as possible.

But it was plain she didn't get me, even the second time, though it's a
cinch she heard me all right, all right. But the name simply didn't mean
nothing in her young life. Was I surprised? I was! Of course if I had
said "I am Mrs. Vernon Castle," and she didn't know who it was, I
wouldn't of got such a jolt. But Marie La Tour! Well, there's ignorance
even among the educated, and I realized this and didn't try to wise her
up any. After all, I was not out for publicity, but for serving my
country. Besides, I had heard right along that the army was full of
democracy; and, of course, this was some of it.

"Well," I says, "I would like to enlist. My heart is broken, but full of
patriotism, and this seemed a good place to come."

"Good!" says this young lady, which I had noticed by this time she had a
lieutenant's uniform on her, but not by any means intending she was glad
my heart was broken. "Good!" she says. "Sit down and let me tell you
about our organization."

"Is it the regular army?" I asked.

"Not yet," says she; "but we hope we will eventually get official
recognition. We are already used by the Government for dispatch and
ambulance service and as escorts and drivers for officers and members of
the various departments; also, as government inspectors. So you see it
is a very live work."

"And it's a awfully pretty costume," I says; "so snappy."

"The uniform is only the outward sign of what we are doing," says Miss
Lieutenant. "You have a car?"

"Outside," I says; "eight-thousand dollars, and all paid for. You can
have it if it's any good to you. Ma always prefers the street car
anyways."

"Thank you; that is splendid!" says the lady officer, very pleasant, but
not exactly excited over my offer--which was some offer at that.

She took out a slip of paper and begun filling in some blanks on it.

First, the make of the car, and then the answers to the questions she
shot at me.

"Can we have it at a moment's notice?" she said. "Yes? Good! Is it new?
In good condition? Do you loan or give it?"

"Give!" I says, brief. "I am not going to be a piker to Uncle Sam."

At this the lady lieutenant actually came out of her shell enough to
give me a smile.

"That's the spirit!" she says. "We sometimes have as many as twenty
offers of cars a day. But, as a rule, they are half-time loans. Can you
drive?"

"Drive a horse?" says I.

"No, no," says the kid, serious again, "a car, of course!"

"Why, no," says I, feeling sort of cheap. "Isn't there anything else I
can do?"

"Plenty," she says, cheerfully; "but you will have to learn to drive,
first of all. You must have a chauffeur's license, a doctor's
certificate of health, two letters of recommendation from prominent
citizens as to your loyalty and general character, and a graduate's
certificate from a technical automobile school."

"Anything else?" I says, sort of faint.

"Well, of course, you will have to take the nursing and first-aid course
at St. Timothy's Hospital," she says, "and the regular U. S. Infantry
drill. But that's about all."

"Do I have to learn all that stuff before I can come in?" I asked,
feeling about as small as when I had my first try-out on the big time
circuit.

"Oh, no," says Miss Lieutenant; "you can sign your application right
away if you like. Then you can come in immediately and start rookie
drill and the first-aid work with the service while you are getting your
technical training."

Believe you me, my breath was about taken away by all this stuff. I
don't really know now just what I did expect when I first come into
that shop, but I guess I had a sort of idea they'd give me a big welcome
and I'd get a costume of some sort; and, after that--well, I don't
really know. I certainly never expected what they handed me. But I was
game.

"When can I commence all this?" I says.

"When do you want to?" says Miss Lieutenant.

"To-day," I says firmly. At this Miss Lieutenant actually smiled again.

"Good!" says she. "The minute you bring me that health certificate and
those letters of recommendation I'll sign you up and you can start in at
the Automobile Training School. To-morrow morning is the time at St.
Timothy's Hospital and to-morrow afternoon is rookie drill."

"And when is the auto school?" I says.

"Every afternoon," she says.

"Then," says I, "I'll get them letters and the certificate here by noon.
And if you O. K. them I'll just start in this P. M.--if it's all the
same to you."

"Good!" says Miss Lieutenant, evidently not displeased, yet determined
to show no emotion.

Then she got up, indicating that our business was over, clicked her
heels together like a regular officer, and made a stiff little bow. Oh,
wasn't she professional, just!

"Well, I'll be back," I says, and started to go. "I'm sure I can get
everything but the technical stuff; and I'll get that if I die of it!"


III

AND--believe you me--I had no idea how near true them words was when I
uttered them. I was almost at the door when the frowzy little dame in
the corner, which I had forgotten she was there, come over and touched
me on the arm.

"I beg your pardon, my dear," she says; "but I want to tell you I think
your spirit is fine. And don't let any fear of the technical course
deter you. Even I was able to do it."

Was I surprised? I was! But she seemed very sweet and kind, though so
unnoticeable; so I just says thanks, and then--believe you me--started
out on some rush!

First of all, I hustled up to old Doc Al's place, which Ma and me has
him for a doctor; though Gawd knows there ain't never a blessed thing
the matter with our healths. Still, since her trapeze days Ma has
always felt that emergencies do happen. Well, of course, he give me a
perfect certificate in less than ten minutes' time, and I was off to see
Goldringer, head of the dancing trust; and him and his partner,
Kingston, each give me a elegant letter of recommendation, than which I
could scarcely of got letters from any more prominent citizens--unless,
maybe, Pres. Wilson.

Well, anyways, I took all three recommends down to the young lady
lieutenant, and there all was the same. Well, it was still lacking five
to twelve when I come in, and Miss Lieutenant looked quite some
surprised, though she tried not to. The letters and the doc's
certificate was O. K.; and the first thing you know, I was signed up and
given three passes. One for the auto school for two o'clock that same P.
M.; one for the hospital, calling for me to be on hand for rehearsal of
the nursing act at nine o'clock next morning. The third was also a call
for rehearsal--a outdoor drill in the park at three P. M. next day. It
looked like I was going to have a busy life.

"Well," I says, "would you like the car now?" I says. "I can walk home
just as good as not."

"No, thanks," says Miss Lieutenant. "We will call upon you for it when
it is needed."

Believe you me, I was grateful for that, because I ain't used to
hustling round in the early morning, and I had hustled some this time.
So I climbed in and says "Home, James!" and dropped in on the seat and
was carried uptown for lunch.

While on the way I got the first chance I'd had all morning to think
about Jim, and to wonder what he had said when he phoned to apologize.
And did the ache come back in my heart when I got thinking of him? It
did! I felt almost sick with lonesomeness by the time I got to the flat.
And whatter you think? Jim hadn't phoned at all! Not a peep out of him!

At first I thought there must be some mistake; but after I'd rowed with
the operator in the hall, and with Ma and Musette both, I come to
realize that the split between me and Jim was real--that we was off each
other sure enough. And it was not so surprising that a man which didn't
hit a German whose alligator had bit him wouldn't know how to treat a
lady!

But somehow Jim's being so mean about not phoning perked me up a lot and
give me courage to think of going into that auto school. I had
commenced to be awful doubtful about it; but Jim's neglect, together
with the lunch Ma had fixed, set me up a lot. And by one-thirty by my
wrist watch, and a quarter to two by the mantel-piece clock, I had the
strength to struggle into a _demitallieur,_ which is French for any
lady's suit costing over sixty dollars, and get to the auto school by
the time the lady lieutenant had told them to expect me.

Oh, that auto school! The torture chambers of this here Castle of
Chillon has nothing on it and--believe you me--the first set of tools a
person going into it needs is a manicure set. The next thing they need
is a good memory, the kind which can get a twelve-hundred-line part
overnight; which no dancer can nor is ever supposed to!

One thing I will say for that school, though--they was not such a
ill-informed lot as the Automobile Service. From the very minute I set
foot inside the place they knew who I was, and the manager give me the
pick of half a dozen young fellows who was just filled with patriotic
longing to help me qualify for the service.

After giving them the once over I finally decided on one lean-looking
bird, who seemed married, and quiet, and likely to teach me something
about the insides of an auto, instead of asking me questions about the
steps of the Teatime Tango Trot, and did I feel the same in my make-up?

Well, the first thing this bird asks me is do I know anything about a
car? And I says, know what? And he says, well, can I name the parts of a
car? And I says, yes; and he says for me to name them. So I says color,
lining, flower holder, clock, speaking tube and chauffeur.

Well, the bird says so far correct; but that wasn't enough, and he
guessed we better begin at the more fundamental parts and would I just
step inside?

Well, it seems this auto school undertakes to teach you everything about
a car from the paint on the body to the appendix, or magneto, as it is
called, in twenty lessons; which is like trying to teach the Teatime
Tango Trot, with three hand-springs and twenty whirls round your
partner's neck, by mail for five dollars. Which is to say it can't be
done.

First off, the instructor hands you a bunch of yellow papers with a lot
of typewriting on them--twenty sheets in all, or one per lesson, and
all you got to do is learn them good and then put into practice what you
learn; and after that what you can't do to a car would fill a book!

Well, after you grab this sheaf of stage bank notes you look at number
one and follow the bird that's teaching you round the room while he
reels it off. I guess the idea of you holding the paper is to check him
up if he makes a mistake. Anyways, this bird let me in among a flock of
busted-looking pieces of machinery and begun talking fast. At first, I
didn't get him at all; but when I got sort of used to it I realized he
was saying something like this:

"The crank shaft is a steel drop-forging having arms extending from
center of shaft according to number of cylinders. It is used to change
the reciprocating movement of the piston into a rotary motion of the
flywheel; it has a starting handle at one end and the flywheel at the
other, as you observe. We will now pass on to the exhaust manifold,
which is generally constructed of cast iron; it conducts the burned
gases from the exhaust valve . . ."

"Hold on!" I says. "Exhaust is right! I'm exhausted this minute. If you
don't mind I'd like to sit down and talk sense, instead of listening to
a phonograph monologue in a foreign language."

The instructor bird seemed sort of winded by this; but he got a couple
of chairs and pretty soon we was sitting in a quiet corner talking like
we'd both been on the same circuit for five years.

"Now listen here, brother," I says real earnest; "I want to learn this
stuff, and learn it right! And I want you to stick by me and see me
through, same as you would any male man that come in here to learn to be
a chauffeur. Now take it easy and make me get it, and I'll play square
and do my best to understand, without no nonsense."

"Say, you bet I will, Miss La Tour!" says this bird, who, married or
not, had some spirit in him yet. "You bet I will! You see, a lot of
dames come in here just because they ain't got nothing else to do. And
you yourself must realize that a guy can only go through the motions
when that's all they want."

Well, I could see that plain enough, and from then on we got along like
a new team of partners with equal money in the act and going big on
thirty straight weeks' booking. And--believe you me--there is a awful
lot of interesting things about a auto; only you would never suspect it
until you start to look at what is under the hood and body. As to
understanding them all, you couldn't get it all off of no twenty sheets
of yellow paper, nor twenty hundred, either! It's a career, really
understanding a machine is; just the same as being a expert dancer. The
guy that invented all them parts and got them working together certainly
must of set up nights doing it.

Well, anyways, after two hours of lapping up this dope I got so's I
could actually tell the cam shaft from the crank shaft and the
difference between a cycle and a cylinder, which was enough for one day.
And then I rode home to Ma.

Actually I had almost forgot to be miserable about Jim for two whole
hours! But when I got home, and he hadn't phoned to apologize yet, it
all came back over me, and I simply felt that, automobiles and
enlistments or no, I wanted to die--just die! I cried so bad that even
Ma couldn't make me mind, and I was so tired I couldn't even taste the
hot cakes she had fixed. I do believe Ma would think of cooking
something tasty if the world was coming to a end the next minute. She'd
be afraid the recording angel would need a sandwich and a cup of hot
coffee to keep him going while he was on the job.

But, anyways, they couldn't do nothing to me, or get me to go to the
Ritz or the theater much less the midnight show; but the last did not
matter, because I was wore out and asleep long before. And so Ma had to
telephone that Miss La Tour was suddenly ill and unable to appear. I
made her swear not to phone Jim nor let him in nor Roscoe, the publicity
man, if they was to come--not on no account. And so I slept--poor
child!--worn by the tossing of the cruel ocean of life--do you get me?

Well, next morning I was up long before Musette, and would of been
obliged to dress unaided, only for Ma never having got used to sleeping
late, partly on account of her always taking a nap just after the
matinée performance when with the circus, and still continuing the
habit. So Ma give me my coffee and a big kiss, and promised not to tell
Jim nothing if he telephoned and I set off to be at the hospital at nine
A. M., according to orders from Miss Lieutenant.

Well, there has always been something about a hospital I didn't care for
much; not that I have went to many--only the night Jim got bit by the
alligator; and once, when me and Jim was first engaged, he had a dog
which we had to take to the dog hospital. But--believe you me--this St.
Timothy's Hospital, was quite different from the dog hospital. It was a
whole lot more like a swell hotel, with porters and bell boys and clerks
and elevators, and everything except a café, as far as I could make out;
and I'm not sure about that, but I don't suppose they had it.

I was so scared of being late that I was a little early and had to wait
in a office. Pretty soon two or three other rookies come in; and, being
ladies, of course we didn't dare to speak to each other at first. And
then the ladies of the Automobile Service commenced coming in, wearing
their uniforms. And were they a fine-looking lot? They were! I sure did
wish I had a right to that costume; and I had a feeling that my heart
wouldn't hurt near so bad, even when thinking of Jim, once it was
beating under that snappy-looking uniform coat in Uncle Sam's
service--do you get me?

Well, about this time we were let go upstairs in one of them regular
hotel elevators, the rookies still scared, the regular members in good
standing talking among theirselves, though several spoke to me nice and
friendly; in particular, the little frowzy one which had been reading
the book the day before in the office, but wasn't at all sloppy in her
uniform.

Believe you me, I had a awful funny feeling in the middle of my stomach
going up in that elevator, and not for the same reason as the
Metropolitan Tower or any of them tall buildings, either. It was because
of not knowing what was ahead of me and preparing for the worst. After
I'd seen the kind of stuff them lady soldiers had to learn in the auto
shop, it seemed like about anything might be expected of them in a mere
hospital. So I got myself all braced up so's if I had to cut off a leg,
or extract a tooth or anything, I'd be able to go to it and not bat an
eye-lash--not outwardly, anyway.

But things is seldom as bad as you figure in advance--not even
first-night performances. And the stuff which was actually put up to us
was simple as a ordinary one-step. At least, it looked so from a
distance. By distance I mean this: When the nursing instructor--a lady
in a white dress, with the darndest-looking little soubrette cap stuck
'way on the back of her head--when she stood up in front of the lot of
us and put a Velpeau bandage--which is French for sling, I guess, and
looks it--on one of the lady soldiers who was acting as mannequin, why,
it looked easy.

While she was putting it on she handed us a line of talk something like
that bird at the auto school, only not so fluent. And when she got
through it was up to the rest of us to put the Velpeau bandages on each
other. Gawd knows it was no cinch.

First, I set down, and a girl in uniform asked could she wrap me up.
Well, it just naturally rumpled my Georgette blouse; but what's a blouse
to a patriot? I let her go to it, and she done it so good and so quick
that it was all over before I knew it, as the dentist says; and then it
was up to me. Somebody give me a nice new roll of bandage and told me to
get a model.

Well, I didn't have the nerve to ask any one, me being so new and the
name Marie La Tour not meaning anything to nobody here. And so here was
me standing round like a fool, not knowing how to commence, when up
comes that lady--her which had been so sloppy reading a book in the
office.

"Can't I be your model?" she offered, and--believe you me--I could of
almost cried, I was so glad to have somebody take notice of me.

I liked that dame more each time I seen her; she sure was refined. Even
her sloppiness was refined--do you get me?

Well, as to real work, that sheaf of yellow papers up to the auto school
had nothing on the bandaging game when it come to understanding it
properly. Believe you me, that bandage had a will of its own, and the
only way to make it mind would of been to step on it and kill it. But
after a little I managed to tie up the lady pretty good, and before I
was done I had my mind made up that Musette had lost her regular job and
was going to be a bandage mannequin from that P. M. on until I got the
hang of the thing.

Well, when the scramble of putting on the bandage was over and past, we
was told that after we got on to the theory we'd be sent down to the
Charity Ward for two solid weeks and practice what we'd learned.

Well, I thought, if I ever get there Gawd help the charity patients! I
guess the two weeks won't qualify me for the Auto Service. More likely
I'll be ready for the Battalion of Death, or whatever they call them
Russian women!

Well, when the bandages was all gathered up we was dismissed, as they
call it, and told to report for drill in a certain place in the park, it
being a fine day.

I must say I didn't think a whole lot of the hospital end of the game,
because it wasn't pleasant. Of course I had no intention to quit in any
way, but it sort of depressed me, what with all that sickness going on
round me and the talk about wounds and bandages. And so my mind wasn't
took off Jim, like it was by the auto work, me having a heart which
needed a little bandaging--only that can't be done, of course.


IV

WELL, on the way home I cried some more. And well I might. For when I
got there had Jim phoned? He had not! Nobody but Goldringer, the
manager, and Roscoe, the publicity man, and a few unimportant nuts like
that, and some of the newspapers. Ma had stalled them off pretty good by
saying it was impossible to disturb me.

And it seems these people hadn't been able to locate Jim anywheres,
either. At first that sounded sort of funny to me; but when I come to
think it over I realized about his nose, where the alligator had bit him
and the doctor had put on the brown stuff, from which he wouldn't
naturally care to be seen--only no one could say that it would prevent
him using the phone, which I also realized.

Well, after I eat a little liver and bacon, and so on, which Ma had
fixed for me, and cried some, which made me feel better again, I started
out for drill; which means that now comes the real important part of
what happened and the true measure of the tale, as the poet says.

Well, it seems we rookies--and I must pause to mention that I don't like
that word rookies; it sounds like something that would get the hook
amateur nights. Well, as I was saying, we rookies was told to report at
three o'clock for a private drill, all of our very own. But I was on to
the fact that the regular members in good standing would be there ahead
of us to do well what we was about to do badly. So I thought I would go
early and sit out in front, or whatever was the same thing, and try and
get a line on how it was done.

Believe you me, there ain't many steps I can't get by seeing them done
once; and if I was to of gone up to the Palace and watch Castle, or Rock
and White, or any one of them, when I come away I could do the steps
they pulled as good as if I had invented them!

Well, this was my idea in going up and seeing the ladies drill. So there
I was at the park bright and early on a fine sunny afternoon, with the
ladies all in uniform. But I wasn't in any too much time, for I'd no
sooner got there than a big roughneck of a feller--a regular U. S. drill
sergeant, I found out after--come up and yelled: "Fall in!" Just as rude
as any stage director I ever seen! But the ladies didn't seem to mind a
bit. They didn't fall into nothing though; they just hustled into line
and stood there.

"Ten-shun!" says the feller. And they all stood like a chorus when the
stage manager is telling them he is going to quit the show if they don't
learn no better, and they're a bunch of fatheads, and he's going to get
them fired. In other words, they stood perfectly still.

Well, after that it was something grand, what those ladies did. I will
say that when I come down to the park that afternoon I thought maybe I'd
see some pretty fair chorus work; you know--formations, and etc. But
this was no chorus work, it was soldiering. I never seen anything neater
in my life. Was it snappy? It was! And when I thought how that bunch of
ladies knew all about autos from soup to nuts, and about bandages, and
etc., believe you me--that drill was the finishing touch.

For once in my life, I was anxious to be in the chorus, even in the back
line. But not forever--not much! Believe you me, I made up my mind that,
once I was really in it, I was going to work for a speaking part like I
never worked before. And meantime I started in that direction by trying
to figure out just what the ladies did when the stage manager--I mean,
officer--hollered at them. And--believe you me--I had the
turn-on-the-heel and push-off-with-the-toe idea on that right-and-left
face stuff long before the regular members in good standing was
dismissed and we lady rookies was called.

Well, the same roughneck which had drilled the others had us simps
wished on to him; and the first thing he done was to get us in a row
--you couldn't properly call it a line--and then stand out in front and
look at us sort of hopeless and discouraged, like a good director which
has just finished with a bunch of old-timers and is starting with green
material for the back row. Then he commenced talking.

Well, while this bird was getting off a line of talk about us now being
soldiers of the U. S. A. and that being no joke to him or us, and etc.,
and etc., but no instructions in it, I let my mind wander just a little,
on account of me having enlisted for deeper reasons than any he
mentioned and him quite incapable of strengthening them.

And while my mind wandered this little bit, and I was thinking how funny
it felt to be back in the chorus--do you get me?--I happened to take a
look at the houses facing the park. And--believe you me--I got a jolt,
for there we was standing right opposite Ruby Rosalie's house!

Well, I was that astonished to realize it you could of knocked me over
with a sudden noise! Up to then I had been so interested in the other
ladies and what they was doing I hadn't even noticed it.

And then, before I could really commence to think what a awful thing it
would be if Ruby was to look out of the window and see me standing
there, and think I was just in some chorus, and maybe that nasty Von
Hoffman with her, and the both of them laughing their fool heads off,
the officer says "Ten-shun!" he says. And, of course, I tenshuned,
because of me being anxious to get everything he said when it come to
instruction, and get it right.

Well, he told us a lot of dope on one thing at a time after he had got
us in line, with the tallest at the right hand, which was me. And he
told us very simple and then made us do it; and no camouflage,
because--believe you me--he could spot any lady which done it wrong
quick as a flash.

I will say he didn't have a whole lot of trouble with me, partly on
account of me having had similar work before, and also my feet taking to
new things so easy. But it took me about ten minutes to see that my
patent Oxfords, with the Looie heels, was never going to do for this
work. Though I hate to say it, the other ladies sure did bother him a
lot. They couldn't seem to mind quick enough. And he had a lot of
trouble making them keep at attention.

Every time we'd be that way, just to show what I mean, the lady next to
me would forget and powder her nose. Oh, that wasn't no new sight to me!
I seen worse in my day until they get used to it. But did that officer
get mad? He did!

"Whatter ye think ye're at?" he yells. "A pink tea? Cut that stuff now!
Attention is attention and youse is standing at it," he says. "The worst
crime youse can commit is move without permission."

And--believe you me--I sympathized with him, I did, little knowing what
I was about to do next my ownself.

Alas, that in ladies obedience comes so much harder than following out a
impulse! For the officer had no sooner uttered them words, and I agreed
with him, than I went back on him something terrible.

It was this way: As I explained, we was drilling in the park, and not
alone in the park but also opposite Ruby Roselle's house. Well, of
course, we was drilling on a open piece of grass, but at one side of
this here grass was fancy bushes; you know--hedges and what not. And me,
being on the end of the line, was nearest them bushes.

Well, as the sergeant was speaking I seen something move under one of
them bushes; and, as Heaven is my witness, there was that pro-German
alligator which had bit Jim on the nose and started all my troubles.
There he was, walking very slowly, gold-and-diamond collar and all, and
by his lone self, with nobody to protect him!

Well, I never stopped to think or salute, or ask nothing of nobody. All
I knew for the time was that that damn alligator had somehow got out on
his own, and that this was the chance of a lifetime. So, without more
ado, I fell right out of attention and rushed over and reached into the
bushes and grabbed the alligator by the tail.

Well, the officer hollered something at me, I don't know what, and all
the ladies commenced screaming. And was I scared of that alligator? I
was! But I held him up by the tail, and it didn't take me two minutes to
find out that he couldn't bite me that way; and then my scare was gone.

I felt so good about getting him I didn't even care much what was being
said at me by the drill sergeant. I just stood there holding tight to
the alligator's tail and grinning all over myself. But up come Miss
Lieutenant, who had been watching our drill--the one which had signed me
up--and she was as mad as a hornet, only having a awful time trying not
to laugh.

"What's this?" she says, indignant.

Fortunately the alligator was in my left hand; so I saluted.

"Enemy alien alligator!" I says.

"Dismissed from the ranks!" she says. "And report to Sergeant Warner at
Headquarters at five o'clock."

Gee, but that made me feel bad! But she wouldn't listen to no
explanations at all, and there was nothing for me to do except walk off
to where the limousine was waiting. And, in a way, I was glad, because
suppose Ruby had of looked out and saw the alligator in my hand! I
couldn't of got away with him.

As things went, I got him safe into the limousine. And--believe you
me--I didn't dare set him down for a minute for fear of his trying to
get even with me; and so I was obliged to hold him at arm's length until
we got home, which it is a good thing that it wasn't very far.

Well, when we got home you ought to of seen the elevator boys get out of
the way! I walked in holding on to the alligator; and once I got to the
flat there was Ma sitting in the Looie-the-Head-Waiter drawing-room,
reading a cook-book. When she seen what I had I must say that for once
she acted kind of surprised.

Of course, she ain't usually surprised, not after her having twice seen
sudden death in the center ring, and the circus went on just the same.
But alligators coming in unexpected is rather out of the usual. So Ma
marked her place at sauces for fish, and took off her glasses so's she
could see good, and give me the kind of stare she used to hand out when
I got dirt on my Sunday-school dress.

"Why, Mary Gilligan!" she says. "For the land's sakes, where did you get
that?"

"Caught it on the wing!" I says, very sarcastic, on account of my arm
being nearly broke. "Can you cook it for supper?" I says.

"Well," she says. "I guess I can. What is it? A mock turtle?"

"It's a pro-German alligator," I says. "And if you'll just kindly help
me instead of standing there staring at it, we'll intern it some place
so's I can leave my arm get a rest."

Well, we certainly had a fierce time finding something to put him in,
owing to us not being able to agree about what kind of a place he
belonged. Ma was all for the goldfish bowl, claiming it was his native
element; and Musette, who come in, thought the canary cage was better.
But, realizing he couldn't jump very high, I had them get a big hat-box,
and set him in that.

"And now what are you going to do with him?" says Ma as we all stood
'round looking at him; and my two fool dogs barking their heads off on
account of a mistaken idea they had that he was a new pet. "What are you
going to do with him?" says Ma.

"Unless you cook him, I don't know," I says--"except for one thing: I'm
going to take that gold-and-diamond collar offen that brute and sell it
and give the money to the American Red Cross; and I'm going to do it
now!"

Believe you me, I was mad at that alligator! And no wonder! Just look
at all the trouble he made me! So I didn't waste any time getting action
against him. First off, I persuaded Ma, who was real brave, to hold a
ice pick down on his nose good and firm, so's he couldn't open his face.
Then I managed, after a lot of trouble, to get that bejeweled sinful
collar off his neck. And was it a swell collar? It was!

As soon as I had it off we just left that alligator interned in the
hat-box and looked the collar over good. It was made all of a piece and
the jewels were certainly wonderful. I know quite a lot about them, me
and Ma always having invested that way when we had a little extra cash.

Well, as we was looking the stones over carefully, I happened to rub one
which was close to the snap, sort of sideways, and right off something
happened: That there collar parted--yes, sir; parted!--the lining from
the outside, and in the place between the setting and the inside frame
was a couple of thin slips of paper!

Well--believe you me--it didn't take me long to get the idea; not after
having a father and a mother which had been in the circus and had to
think quick, and me having been associated with dramatic stuff all my
life--do you get me? You do!

What with that collar having come off a alligator which I was already
convinced was a pro-German, and knowing Von Hoffman had give it to Ruby
Roselle, and got her to sing Overseas in that nasty costume made out of
the national colors, which should never be done, I seen everything
clear. Von Hoffman had a German job of some kind!

And when I unfolded those papers and seen they was full of funny little
marks like a stenographer makes and then can't read, I realized that I
had happened in on it; and so will any intelligent public.

Well, was Ma and Musette full of questions? They was! But I didn't wait
to answer none of them; for I realized, also, that it was almost five
o'clock, and I was supposed to report at Headquarters for a bawling-out
at that time. And, after me having broken the rules once, I had no wish
to do it again so soon.

Well, I just grabbed up the collar and the papers, and a clean pair of
gloves, as the alligator had completely ruined what I had, and, having
on my hat, waited not to explain, but made a dash for the street. And
by a big piece of luck there was the limousine, still standing outside
on account of I having forgot to tell John to go. Well, I told him
"Headquarters!" and off we started; and I got there just on the dot of
five o'clock.

Well, Miss Lieutenant was there, and a Miss Sergeant--the one I was
reporting to--and that frowzy-looking lady I have spoke of before, and
several other ladies, still in their uniforms. And while I was
explaining, in comes the captain, which she certainly is a smart woman.
And they all listened while I reported and told the whole story about
Ruby and me and Jim and Von Hoffman and the alligator. Then I saluted
and handed over said collar and papers in evidence; and then the captain
spoke up:

"This material, which is undoubtedly in a foreign code, will be of
interest to the Secret Service," she says. "This Von Hoffman is probably
one of those persons who are active in the obviously deliberate effort
to cheapen and degrade the quality of our patriotism," she says; "for I
have heard that is part of the German propaganda here."

"Private La Tour, in view of the unusual circumstances, you are excused
for your action in leaving ranks without permission," she says; "but
next time remember to get your salute recognized," she says--"even under
extreme conditions."

Then she went on, and she says:

"I understand you have given your car," she says. "Some member in
uniform will take this evidence downtown in Private La Tour's car," she
says, "which we now accept for the service."

Then she walked into her office, which said Private on it, and closed
the door; and I watched one of the ladies in uniform go away, with the
collar and the papers, in my limousine.

And after she had went I got a terrible scare, for it come over me all
of a sudden that I hadn't even a nickel change on me to buy car fare
home!

Well, just as I was standing there wondering how I was going to hoof it
after the trying day I had had, that frowzy lady comes up to me, real
kind, like she could almost see what I was thinking of; and she says:

"May I take you home in my car, Miss La Tour?" she says. "I have seen
you dance so often that I feel as though I knew you. I am Mrs. Pieter
van Norden."

Just get that, will you, will you? Her that I had been modeling myself
on for refinement for years! And--would you believe it?--on the way home
she told me she had been trying to dance like me since the first time
she seen me!

Well--believe you me--I felt so good over this, and over having got the
goods on Von Hoffman, and about being excused for making that bad break
at drill, and not getting fired out of the Automobile Service, that I
only commenced feeling bad about Jim and me again after Mrs. Van Norden
had left me at the door of my place, and I was going up in the elevator.

As I was letting myself in with my key I got so low in my mind again
that I felt I would just die if Jim hadn't phoned; and I knew he hadn't,
for I'd given up hope. Well, I opened the door and went in. And then I
got another shock; for right in the middle of the drawing-room stood
Jim.

Well, first off, I didn't know him on account of him being in khaki; but
when he turned around I nearly died for sure! But I didn't actually die.
What I done is nobody's business but mine and Jim's. But I will say it
was a second lieutenant-of-aviation uniform; and they show powder on the
shoulder something terrible.

And he had been studying for months; and that's where he was every
afternoon, and not out with some blonde, and wouldn't tell me for fear
he wouldn't get it!

And I'm going to dance alone at night until he comes back, and all day
drive a truck or something to release a man. And that's the whole inside
story of the split, which is now readily seen is not a fight at all, at
least not yet for we got married at once.

So, only one thing more: Regarding that alligator, Ma decided he would
be too hard to cook. So Jim took him to camp for a mascot, and by the
time he got through there he learned to understand American--believe you
me!



II

PRO BONEHEAD PUBLICO


I

AIN'T it remarkable the way the war has changed the way we look at a
whole lot of things? Take wrist-watches for one. Before the military
idea was going so strong on its present booking but a little while,
wrist-watches had grabbed off a masculine standing for themselves, and
six months before no real man would of been willingly found dead in one!

Then take newspapers! Oncet we used to look at them for news, and now we
just look at them. It's kind of a nervous habit, I guess. And take
simple little things like coal and sugar. Why once we paid no attention
to them and now we look at them real respectful--when we see them.
Which leads me on to say that the war has brought us to look at a great
many things we never even seen before, not if they was right under our
noses. That's how I come to see that letter from the W.S.S.
Committee--and would to Heaven I had not, as the poet says. For
although--believe you me--most of the mail order goods a person buys is
pretty apt to be as rep. because why would a customer write again which
had been stung once, and thrift stamps is no exception, it certainly
will be a long time before I fall so easy for anything the postman slips
me. Next time I'll recognize that his whistle is a note of warning to
more than them which has unpaid bills, which I have not and so never
listened for him.

Well, anyways, the time this little trouble maker reached my side, I had
slipped into a simple little lounging suit of pink georgette pajamas,
and was lying on the day-bed in a regular wallow of misery on account of
wondering if Jim was dead on the gory fields of France, or was it only
the censor--do you get me? I was laying there rubbing a little cold
cream onto my nose and thinking how would it feel to be always able to
do so without losing my husband's love, which, of course, would mean he
had died at the front, when in comes Ma with a couple of letters. I give
one shriek and sprung to my feet, like a regular small-time drama, and
grabbed them off her, cold cream and all. And then slunk back upon the
day-bed and despair when I seen they weren't from Jim. Ma stood there
with her hands on her hips until she seen I wasn't going to break any
bad news to her, when she left me in peace to read them. That is she
meant to, but believe you me, it was far from it as Ma went into our
all-paid-for gold furnished parlour and commenced playing on the pianola
which Jim had give me for a souvenir before he sailed, and Ma, being
sort of heavy and strong, after twenty-five years with a circus, she has
a fierce touch.

Well, anyways, after she had got "Soft and Low" going strong with the
loud pedal and no expression, I opened the first envelope. It was my
copy of my new contract with Goldringer all signed and everything and
calling for only twenty minutes of my first class A-1 parlour dancing
act in his new musical show at the Springtime Garden entitled "Go To It"
and which let all persons know that the party of the first part
hereinafter called the manager was willing and able to pay Miss Marie La
Tour, party of the second ditto, one thousand dollars a week. Which
certainly was _some_ party to look foreward to and scarcely any work to
speak of, a refined act like mine not calling for over three handsprings
and some new steps, which is second nature to me and I generally make up
a few every night for my own amusement same as some of those fellows
which play the piano by hand--do you get me?

Well, anyways, when I had looked the contract over good and seen it
really was, as I had before realized in the office, more than
satisfactory, I salted it away in my toy safe which was nicely built
into the mantel-piece for the greater convenience of burglars, and then
I remembered the other envelope. All unsuspecting as a table d'hote
guest, I opened the envelope, and then almost dropped dead.

It was from President Wilson!

Believe you me, I leaned up against the art-gray wall paper and prepared
to faint after I had read the news. But instead of commencing, "I regret
to inform you of the death in battle," or something like that, it
started:


    "THE WHITE HOUSE,
    "Washington, D. C.

     "I earnestly appeal to every man, woman and child to pledge
     themselves to save constantly and to buy as regularly as possible
     the securities of the Government; and to do this as far as possible
     through membership in War Savings Societies.

     "The man who buys War Savings Stamps transfers his purchasing power
     to the United States Government.

     "May there be none unenlisted in the great volunteer army of
     production and saving here at home.

    "WOODROW WILSON."


Woodrow Wilson! Signed--and addressed to _me!_ Of course it didn't
exactly begin "Dear Miss La Tour" or anything like that, and he had
signed it with a rubber stamp or something which I did not hold against
him in the least, me realizing at once what a busy man he must be. But
coming as it done instead of a death-notice which I had by this time
fully expected after no letter for over a month, it got to me very
strong. It made me feel all of a sudden that I was a pretty punk patriot
lounging around in pink georgette pajamas which--believe you me--is no
costume for war-work and felt like going right off and borrowing one of
the gingham house-dresses which I have never been able to break Ma of,
only, of course, it would of been too big and anyways what would I of
done after I had it pinned around me? Which could be said of a whole lot
of folks which were rushing into uniforms of their own inventing.

Well, anyways, after the first shock was over, I seen there was an
enclosure with the President's letter. This was from some committee
which had a big W.S.S. lable printed at the top and a piece out of the
social register printed underneath, and was dated N. Y. It begun more
personal.

"Dear Miss La Tour," it said. "As a woman so prominent in the theatrical
world, we feel sure that you would be glad to take an active interest in
the great Thrift movement which is now before the country. Will you not
form a theatrical women's committee that will pledge the sale of
twenty-five thousand dollars' worth of stamps on the first of the month?
The first of every month will be observed as Thrift Stamp Day, and we
will be glad to furnish you with all literature, stamps, etc., if you
will notify headquarters of your willingness to do this work."

The letter was signed by some guy which it was impossible to read his
name because he hadn't used no rubber stamp but did it by hand and had
other things on his mind. But did I care? I did not! Believe you me, I
had already decided to do like he asked, and why would I need to know
his name when I wasn't going to write to him anyways, but to Mr. Wilson?
Dancing as long as I have which is about fifteen years or since I could
walk, pretty near, and not only professionally but drawing my own
contracts from the time most sweet young things is thinking over their
graduation dresses, I have learned one thing, if no other. Always do
business with the boss. Refuse to talk to all office boys, get friendly
with the lady stenographer, if there is one, but do all business with
the one at the head--and no other! This motto has saved me no end of
time which has been spent in healthy exercise under my own roof and Ma's
eagle eye, which otherwise might have wore out the seats of
outside-office chairs.

And so I concluded that I'd sit right down that minute and let Mr.
Wilson know I was on the job. I knew I had some writing paper someplace
and after I had took a lot of powder and chamois and old asperin
tablets out of the desk I dug it up:--a box of handsome velour-finish
tinted slightly pink, with envelopes to match. And I got hold of a pen
and some ink which Musette, my maid, had overlooked, she being a great
writer to her young man which is French and Gawd knows how fluent she
writes him in it, only of course being born over there certainly makes a
difference.

Well, anyways, I cleaned off the desk and rubbed the cream off my nose
and hands and set down to write that letter. And--believe you me--it was
some job. I guess I must of commenced a dozen times and tore them up
with formal openings--do you get me? And then I realized that the box of
pink tinted was getting sort of low and I had better waste not want not,
and so determined to just be natural in what I wrote but not take up his
time with too long a letter. So at last I threw in the clutch, gave
myself a little gas, and we was off, to this effect.

     "My dear Mr. Wilson:--

     "Many thanks for yours of the 25th inst. Will at once get busy at
     helping to make the first of the month savings day instead of
     unpaid-bill day.

    "Cordially,
    "MARIE LA TOUR."


This seemed refined and to the point, and although I was awful tempted
to put a P.S. asking did they know anything about Jim, I left off on
account of me not believing in asking personal favors of the Government
just now, as the war office was probably medium busy and the Censor
might answer first, at that. So I just sealed it up as it was, and about
then Ma left off playing on my souvenir and came in with a pink satin
boudoir cap down tight over her head. Ma just can't seem to get over the
idea that boudoir caps at five dollars and up per each is a sort of de
lux housework garment.

"I'm just going in the kitchen and beat up a few cakes for lunch," said
Ma, and withdrew, leaving me to lick on three cents and shoot the letter
fatefully and finally down the drop near the gilt-bird-cage elevator of
our home-like little flat. I felt awfully relieved and chesty somehow
when it was done and with her good news ringing in my ears. For Ma is
certainly some cook, and she has it all over our chef, who--believe you
me--knows she would never be missed if she went although Ma simply can't
learn to stay out of the kitchen. And while she was busy with the butter
and eggs and sugar and wheat flour, I was deciding to call a committee,
because I knew that was the way you generally start raising twenty-five
thousand dollars worth of anything, except a personal note.

Committee meetings is comparative strangers to me except the White
Kittens Annual Ball, and a few benefit performances which last is
usually for the benefit of those which are to be in it, they leaving
aside all consideration of the benefit of the audience much less of the
charity it is supposed to be for, and the main idea being how long each
actor can hold the spotlight. You may have noticed how these benefit
performances runs on for hours.

Well, anyways, I having been to several such as of course the best known
parlour dancing act in America and the world, like mine undoubtedly is,
is never overlooked. And I knew we had to get a place with a big table
and chairs set around it and then the committee was started. So the
White Kittens always having met in the Grand Ball Room of the Palatial
Hotel, I called up the place and hired the room for the next morning at
twelve-thirty, me being determined that my Theatrical Ladies Committee
should get there directly after breakfast. The cost of the room was one
hundred dollars, and I didn't know was the Government to pay it or us,
but I was, of course, willing to do it myself if necessary. Anyways it
was a committee-room, I knew that by reason of my having sat in it as
such at least twice each year since the place was built--way back in
'13. Then all I had to do was get my committee.

I had just about dived for the telephone book to see who would I call
up, when Ma come in, taking off the pink satin cap and wiping her face.

"I made a omlette," said Ma. "Come catch it before it falls!"

And so I called it the noon-whistle though some might of called it a
day, and we went in and while we ate only a simple little lunch of the
omlette (which we got at first base) and liver and bacon and cold roast
beef and a few stewed prunes with the fresh cake, I told Ma about what
had happened, and how I had already got after the job.

"Well, Mary Gilligan, you done the right thing!" said Ma. "And what kind
of costume are you going to wear?"

"The notices don't say anything about a uniform," I explained to her.
"And I'm pretty sure you don't need any. This is the sort of thing our
leading society swells are taking up so heavy," I says, "and to do it is
not only patriotic but feminine to the core," I says.

"Will you have to stand on the street-corners and worry the life out of
folks?" Ma wanted to know.

"Not much!" I says. "That stuff is for the hoi-poli and idle rich and
kids and unemployed. That's where some of the new democracy comes in. Us
with brains is to do the office work. Them with good hearts only can do
theirselves and the country more service in the stores and street-cars
selling something that don't belong to them," I says, "and--believe you
me--I bet any American gets a funny sensation doing that little thing."

Ma looked real impressed for a minute, showing she hadn't any idea what
I was talking about. Then she come back to her main idea with which she
had started which you can bet she always does until she gets through
with it her own self.

"Well, I think you ought to have something for a uniform," she says.
"Say a cap and maybe a trench coat!"

"I wouldn't wear no trench coat around the Forty-Second Street and
Broadway trenches," I says. "I wouldn't actually have the nerve to
insult the army like that!"

And Ma seen what I meant and said no more which it certainly is
remarkable how good we get on for Mother and daughter.

So she only urged me to have another cream-cake, which I took and then I
made for the phone and started calling up some ladies to form the
committee out of. After thinking the matter over very careful I finally
decided on six of the most prominent in my line which was, of course,
the Dahlia sisters which had been often on the same bill with me and, of
course, they ain't really related--no such team work as theirs was ever
pulled by members of the same family, unless maybe when knocking some
absent member--do you get me? Well, anyways, beside them I got Madame
Clementina Broun, the well known Lady Baritone, she being a rather
substantial party which would give weight to us in cabaret circles. Of
course Pattie The Dancer had to be asked, she being so prominent
especially as to her tights and strong pull with Goldringer but I only
done it out of diplomacy, which any one knows committees has to have a
lot of. And she is less diplomatic than me as well, for instead of just
accepting for her own self she accepts also for some friends which I had
not invited, and she did not name. Pattie is alias Mrs. Fred
Hutchins--him who gets up those reviews--you know--which is the only
reason she is starred in them for Gawd only knows a child which had been
started anywheres near right could of done her steps at the age of
seven, they being mere hard-sole clog with no arm movements but having a
great many imitators among college boys and such, that scare-crow stuff
being as showy as it is easy.


Well, anyways, when I had got this far I had one vacancy on my hands and
as our Allies was not sufficiently represented so far, decided on Mlle.
DuChamps which of course she was really born in Paris, Indiana, but as a
toe-dancer is unequalled in any language and has a lovely broken
accent. So there we had France. Madame Clementia was married to a
Italian and he being dead or something I never asked what I felt she was
a safe Ally because she couldn't of revolted, not if a schrapnel was to
have went off under her. Pattie was of course Irish and the Dahlias'
Jewish, and Gawd knows what the other girl was and I didn't care.


II

WHEN they had all promised to get theirselves waked up on time and be
over to the Palatial, I kind of weakened on Ma's suggestion about
clothes. Of course I wasn't going to fall for that uniform stuff, but
when me and Musette looked over my clothes I simply didn't have a thing
to wear. Every one of my dresses was too morning or evening or something
and above all things I do believe in dressing a part, and certainly I
had nothing which looked like a chairmaness. So after getting into a
simple little sports costume of violet satin and my summer furs, and
taking a peep into the mail box to see had anything got by the censor
yet which of course it hadn't, I started out to buy me something which
would be quiet but tasty and snappy because nothing inspires respect in
a ladies committee like a dress none of them has seen before.

Have you ever noticed how you can pass up something which has been right
under your nose day after day and then all of a sudden you hitch on to
something which belongs to it and then all you see is that thing--do you
get me? Say yellow kid boots. You never even noticed a pair, but one day
you buy them and next time you're out every second woman has them on. Or
you go into mourning for somebody and all of a sudden you commence
noticing how many other people is the same only of course there ain't
over the average--it's only that you notice it because you are in it.
Well, believe you me--that first afternoon I went out after receiving
the President's letter, I was that way with this W.S.S. stuff. Of course
I had bought my thousand dollars worth the first week they was out, as
had also Ma and she and I together the same for Musette. But we had done
it on the Liberty Loans the same, also Red Cross and thought we was
through and all the signs and posters and what not had come to be
invisible to me like a chewing-gum or a soap ad--do you get me?

But now I was in it and not only did I see every sign and see them good,
but felt like I had one on my back and everybody must know about the
letter and everything. I walked kind of springy, too, in spite of the
furs, and then when I turned into the Avenue, me being on foot, a five
mile walk per day having to be got away with by me or Ma would know the
reason why, the trouble commenced. Believe you me, I must of refused to
buy thrift stamps one hundred times in twenty blocks, and every time I
said I had all I could, the look I got handed me would have withered a
publicity man. There must be a hot lot of fancy liars among us, with no
imagination, for why would W.S.S. still be on sale if everybody had
bought that much? And when I wasn't refusing to buy stamps I was forking
out quarters for everything from blind Belgian hares to Welch Rabbits
for German prisoners. And it's a good thing I had a charge account to
Maison Rosabelle's or I would never of got my dress. And the more I was
pestered to buy them stamps the madder I got. I commenced to feel it was
a regular hold up, and that the police ought to interfere. A person
which is pestered to death will even sour on the Red Cross. I don't mean
that they ain't humane, neither--only that they are human, and the most
dangerous thing to do to a human is to bore it--any one in the
theatrical professions learns that young and thoroughly. And when I
realized that I was getting bored with this constant hold-up I got a
fearful jolt and a cold chill.

Here I was undertaking to chair a committee to sell the things and Gawd
knows my heart ought to of been in it with Jim over there and all, and
it was, only getting bored with the war is kind of natural, it being so
far off and nothing likely to do us personal bodily injury on the Avenue
unless maybe the restaurants or a auto and that our own fault. And so
soon as I realized what I was up against with the great Boredom Peril, I
realized also what I had personally in writing promised Mr. Wilson, and
took a brace. It was just like the early days on the Small-Time when the
booking depends on the hand and the hand was the one which fed us--and
not any too much at that with the carrying expenses--and the hand was
getting weaker. Me and Ma sat up all one night doping out my double
handspring with the heel-click. And it was a desperate effort and we
thought it was a flivver but not at all. When I landed on my feet after
the first try-out, I knew I was there to stay, and any intelligent
public will realize that I remembered it now. And by this time I had
reached the store I was headed for.


I will confess that from the moment I had decided to buy a new dress I
had my mind all set on what it was to be--something sheer and
light--printed chiffon, and a hat to go with it. But by the time I had
reached Maison Rosabelle my hunch on my new job was beginning to go
strong and one of the things that worried me was that dress. Also my
lunch. Sometimes it happens that too much of a good thing is the only
thing which will turn you against it--do you get me? And Ma's cream
cakes had this effect. Maybe had I eat less of them I would not have had
no indigestion and so not counted their cost as Lincoln, or somebody,
says. And if I hadn't had the indigestion maybe I wouldn't of worried
over the dress. Well, anyways, the first person I see inside the store
was Maison herself, very elegant and slim, only with a little too much
henna in her hair as usual.

"Well, Masie," I said when we had got into the privacy of the art-gray
dressing room and lit a cigarette, while the girl went for some models.
"Well, Masie, I want to know is business good?" Masie is her real name
she having Frenchified it for business reasons, the same as myself.

"Oh, dearie!" says she. "Business is elegant! With so many officers in
town, I can scarcely keep enough things in stock. The beaded georgettes
go so fast, on account of being perishable. Ruby Roselle had three last
week of me. One party and they're gone!"

While Masie and me has been friends ever since I can remember, her
mother having been Lady Lion Tamer in the same circus with Ma and Pa's
trapeze act, as she uttered them words, I commenced feeling a little
coolness toward her. For once I get a idea in my head it's a religion to
me, and the W.S.S. was getting to me.

"Dont you think maybe that's profiteering, Masie?" I ast.

Maison run a well manicured hand over her marcelle and smiled
superior--she has always prided herself on being sort of high-brow and
reads _Sappy Stories_ regular.

"Why, dearie, how you talk!" she says. "Dont you know that a little
gaiety keeps up the morale of the country?"

"I'm not so sure about some gaiety keeping up the moral of anything!" I
says with meaning, not wishing to directly knock anybody but still
wishing Masie to get me. "And personally myself, I think any time's a
bad time to waste money on clothes which won't last!"

"My goodness, Sweetie!" Masie shrieked. "What's gonner become of us if
ladies was to quit buying? Tell me that? How we gonner hire our help,
and all, and how can they live if we dont hire 'em? Have a heart!" she
says. "And what are you talking about--you coming in after a new dress
yourself, and only last week had two chiffons which Gawd knows ain't
chain-armour for wear!"

"I know!" I admitted, "but I'm going to can my order. Just tell the girl
to bring gingham or something which will wash--if you got such a thing!"

"Well, Mary Gilligan, I guess you're going nutty!" says Masie, but she
gives the order, and I choose one at $15--which could be dry-cleaned,
and that was the nearest I could come to what I was after.

"You wont like it!" Masie warned me. "It's too cheap--better take a good
silk!"

But I wouldn't--not on a bet. Even although what Masie said about
cutting down too much on buying stuff sounded sensible, or would if only
the question was how far can a person cut before they reach the quick?
Of course I see her point, and she had as good a right to live as me.
Yet something was wrong some place, I couldn't figure out where. So I
just charged the dress and set out for home, and owning a cotton dress
made me feel awful warlike and humble--do you get me?

But while I felt better about my dress, the cream-cakes was still with
me, and, being now a sort of Government Official, they and that got me
noticing the food signs, as well, and wishing I had eat only a little
cereal for my lunch. That gave me a idea which on arriving home I handed
to Ma.

"I have just bought me a wash-dress, or almost so, Ma!" I told her. "And
honest to Gawd I do think we ought to eat to match it. Suppose we was
to go on war-rations of our own free wills?"

"Well, we eat pretty plain and wholesome now!" says Ma. "Just like we
always done!"

"But times is different!" I says, toying with the soda-mint bottle, and
who knows but what they were being more needed abroad? "And cream-cakes
is a non-essential. Especially to one which has to keep her figure
down," I says. "So for lunch to-morrow let's have cereal only," I says.

Well I hate to take pleasure from any one and the sight of Ma's face
when I said this would of brought tears to a glass eye. But I felt
particularly strong-minded just then what with the indigestion and no
letter from the censor yet and Gawd knows that is no joke as they are
certainly more his than Jim's by the time they get to me! But after I
had told Ma how all the caviar had ought to be sent over to the boys and
how food would win the war and how Wilson expected every man--you
know--well, she got all enthusiastic over making up a lot of cheap
recipes and we had the butcher and grocer pared down to about ninety
cents each per day. Ma could just see herself growing slim, and she kept
remembering things she used to cook for Pa in the old days before she
retired on the insurance money. And first thing you knew the time had
come for me to go to the theatre. Just as I was starting for the door Ma
mentioned Rosco, our publicity man.

"Are you going to call him or will I?" she wanted to know.

"About what?" I asked.

"Why about your committee-meeting to-morrow?" she says.

"Nothing doing!" I came back at her. "Would you invite a manager to see
a practice-act? Its going to be amateur-night for me, to-morrow is, and
no outsiders are urged to attend! And anyways, I'm not doing this for
publicity which Gawd knows I dont need any, but for my Uncle Sam!"

"Well, thank goodness, you aint go no other relations you feel that way
about," says Ma, "or we'd all be in the poorhouse shortly!"


III

Well, that night when I came home I cried myself to sleep with my head
under the pillow so's Ma wouldn't hear what I called the censor, but
slept good on account of the simple little war-supper of only lettuce
and a cup of soup which Ma had ready for me, and in the morning was up
with the lark as the poet says, only of course they was really sparrows,
it being the city. Well, anyways, I felt good and husky and as early as
eleven-thirty I was all fixed up in the new wash dress, which its a
actual fact Musette had to sew it together four separate places that it
come apart while putting it on me. The goods wasn't the quality I had
thought, come to look at them closer, but anyways it was cheap and that
was one good thing about it. Ma brought me in a shredded wheat-less
biscuit and a cup of coffee, a sort of funny look on her face like she
had taken her oath and would stick it out to the death. She didn't say
anything, only set it down and I ate it, saying nothing either because
it was what we had agreed we would get along on for breakfast. When I
was through she give me a news item.

"The cook is leaving!" she says. "On account of the new rations."

"That's no loss!" I says gaily, because as a general thing Ma is only
too glad when this happens.

"I ain't so sure!" says Ma. "I'm not as young as I was, and I cant do
_all_ the cooking!"

Well--believe you me--I sat up and took notice of that! Ma kicking at
her favorite pastime. Something was wrong. But even then I didn't get
what it was. So I just remarked we could eat our dinners at the Ritz
that being good publicity anyways and always expected of me in full
evening dress when I am dancing. So that much settled and there being no
letter yet and me being sort of nervous about that meeting which was
breaking ahead, I went and beguiled a hour at Jim's souvenir. I thought
a whole lot of that pianola, he having given it to me just before he
sailed, and as of course it was too heavy to wear over my aching heart
which is generally supposed to be done with souvenirs of loved ones
overseas, I put in a good deal of time sitting at it, and--believe you
me--my touch is a whole lot better than Ma's which me being light on my
feet by nature and business both, is not so surprising. Well, I got
myself all worked up over Jim while playing "Somewhere A Voice Is
Calling with Mandolin Arrangement" and a whole lot of expression and
what with feeling a little low on account of the patriotic breakfast, I
was just in the right frame of mind to throw myself heart and soul into
the good work before me--do you get it? You do!


Well, I had no sooner left the shelter of our own flat, than that same
hold-up game which I had noticed so particular the day before was
started on me. The elevator-girls, which had taken the place of a
standing yet sitting army of foreign princes which had used to clutter
up our front hall and the only excuse they had for living was the nerve
they give the landlord when he come to price the rents:--well, anyways,
the girls which had taken their places since the draft blew in, was
selling W.S.S. Of course I couldn't buy any for the same reasons as
yesterday. So they sprung a working girls War Crippled Aid Fund and I
contributed to that, because I believe in girls running elevators. Why
wouldn't they, when thousands has run dumb-waiters so good for years?
Well, anyways, I give them something and escaped to the street only to
be lit on for stamps by the first small boy I met. And after only seven
others had tried me, I got to the Palatial Hotel, and--believe you
me--by that time worried pretty severely about how could a person sell
twenty-five thousand dollars worth of the pesky things and not get slain
by some impatient citizen who felt that I was the last camel and his
back was broke, or whatever the poet says? Really, it was serious, and
being the first of the Theatrical Ladies to arrive, the big ballroom
with the table and seven empty chairs like a desert island in the middle
of the floor, failed to cheer me any.

Well, there was a arm-chair at one end of the table and there being
nobody around to either elect me or stop me, I grabbed off this chair
and held to it with the grim expression of a suburbanite who knows her
husband isn't coming but wont admit it, and a good thing I acted prompt
as should be done in all war-measures, because pretty soon the other
ladies commenced arriving. I guess they must of thought they could get a
better part by coming early, they was so prompt, and by one o'clock they
was actually all there except Pattie and her unknown friend, which was
pretty good, the date having been twelve-thirty.

Well, we all shook hands and I arose from my seat but didn't move a inch
away from it, having seen something of committee meetings where the
wrong person had it. And then they all sat down and took in my dress and
hat and I theirs, and we was very amiable and refined and I felt so glad
I had picked such a good bunch and wished Pattie would hurry so's we
could commence, when lo! as the poet says, my wish was granted, for in
come Pattie and with her her friend and My Gawd, if it wasn't Ruby
Roselle!

Well, far be it from me to say anything about any lady, only pro-Germans
is pro-Germans by any other name, as Shakespeare says, provided you can
find it out, and here she was, butting in on a gathering of would-be
Dolly Madisons and Moll Pritchers and everything, and I wouldn't of
invited her for the world if only Pattie had mentioned her name. But
here she was, all dressed up like a plush horse and so friendly it got
me worried right away. Any one which has seen Ruby in her red, white and
blue tights will at once realize what I mean, though nothing but the
tights was ever proved against her. What on earth she wanted with our
committee was very suspicious because why would she ever of taken a
expensive and difficult present like a baby alligator from a German
which she once done, if not pro, her own self?

But time for starting something had sure come, if we was ever to get any
lunch, so I got them all seated and commenced--a little weak in the
knees which it was a good thing I was seated, but strong in the voice,
so as to start the moral right--do you get me?

"Ladies of the Theatrical Ladies W.S.S. Committee," I began, being
determined not to waste no time on formalities, which it has always
seemed to me that on such occasions a lot of gas is used up in them
which would have run the machine quite a ways if applied properly. We
all knew we was the Theatrical Ladies W.S.S. Committee and I was the
chairman, so why waste words making me it? "Ladies," I says, "I have a
letter from President Wilson asking me to get to work, and so have
formed a committee to sell twenty-five thousand dollars worth of War
Savings Stamps on the first of the month. I sat right down and wrote him
I would do it, and here we are. Of course this being the twenty-eighth
of the month the notice is short. Probably he didn't expect us really to
get to work until next month, but personally, myself, I think we should
surprise him by getting the money by Saturday night, which Saturday
night is the first. Now, you Committee Ladies is here to discuss how
will we do it. I would be glad to hear ideas, suggestions and etc."

Well, nobody said anything for a few minutes only Ruby put a little
powder on her nose and looked at it critical in her vanity case mirror,
which well she might for Gawd knows she had powder enough on her
already. Then Madame Broun, the Lady Baritone, cleared her throat.

"I would be glad to give a recital," she said, swelling up her neatly
upholstered black satin bosom, "and turn over the money it brings in. I
presume the Government would hire the theatre for me."

"Well," I says, "that is a real nice suggestion only not quite
practical. You see it wouldn't be right to ask the Government to pay for
the theater in case it was a wet Monday and only a few came in out of
the rain. Any more ideas?"

The blond Dahlia sister spoke up then.

"Whatever you suggest goes with me, Marie," she says, which was terrible
sweet of her, only it's a darn sight easier to give a proxy than a good
suggestion, which I did not however mention, Blondie being a real fine
Jewish American and a willing worker as I well knew.

"I thought of course it was a benefit we would give," put in Pattie in a
voice which just plain dismissed every other possibility. "I have a new
patter to 'Yankee Doodle' with a red, white and blue spot on me, at
front center with the rest of the house dark. It ought to go big about
the center of the programme."

After which modest little suggestion she sunk gracefully back into her
seat and commenced shadow-tapping the tune with her feet under the
committee table.

"Well, benefits is always possible," I said, "and of course we could
have it with admission by W.S.S. only. But it's been done a lot and
three days ain't so very much time in which to get it up in a way which
would do your act justice," I says.

"Ah! _cheries!_" says Mlle. DuChamp. "Mes petites!" she says, whatever
that was. "I have zee gran' idea--perfect! I will make zee speach on zee
steps of zee Library of zee Public at Forty-Second Street and Feeth
Avenoo. I will arise, I will stretch my han', I will call out
'Cityonnes! 'Urry up queek! Your countree call you--Formez vos
battillions!' and while I make zee dramatic appeal zee ozzers can
collect twenty-five t'ousand dollar from zee breathless crowd!"

She had got up on her box-toed shoes and was making the grandest
gestures you ever see. Honest to Gawd I do believe that girl has herself
kidded into believing that the Paris she was born in was France, not
Ind. I kind of waved at her, and when she had flopped back into her
place, completely overcome by her emotions, I suggested that maybe the
Library wasn't as Public as it looked, being generally occupied of a
fine afternoon by wounded soldiers making the same line of talk, and of
course Mlle. DuChamps would be more _chic_ and all that, but would she
be let?

"Of course she wouldn't!" says Ruby, coming out of her vanity-case for a
minute. "Of course not! My idea is that we all chip in say about seven
thousand five hundred and let it go at that!"

Somehow this cheap-Jack way of getting out of doing any work by spending
a little money, got my goat something fierce. Besides which it was
Ruby's idea of patriotism and all against W.S.S. rules and everything,
but for the minute I was so floored I couldn't speak. The dark Dahlia
did it for me, though, and much more contained than I could of at the
time.

"That's mighty generous, Miss Roselle," she says just as sweet, "only
you see me and Blondie has each got our thousand dollars worth and one
person can't get more," she says.

"Well, I'll take a thousand dollars worth then," said Ruby, and I could
see very plain that the matter was finished in her mind, and what would
you expect different after them patriotic tights of hers?

"I'll take a thousand also," put in Madame Broun. "To tell the right
truth I haven't a one. What do you do with them--stick them on the backs
of letters like Tuberculosis, or Merry Xmas?"

Well, we explained they was not a additional burden to the postman but
more or less of a investment. And then the awful truth come out that
Pattie hadn't none either and that Mlle. DuChamps had always thought
they was to put on tobacco boxes and candy and everything you stored up
in the house to eat, though Gawd only knows how she got that idea except
of course it's the truth that most people is boobs, outside of their
own line, more's the pity!


Well, anyways, we took in four thousand right then and there and so all
that remained was twenty-one. Ruby undertook to sell another three among
her personal friends, and the Dahlias said they thought they could raise
as much more between theirselves. Then when Mlle. DuChamps and Madame
Broun had concluded to take on three apiece there was eleven thousand
dollars worth of friendless little stamps with nobody to love them but
me. Well, with no better schemes than benefits and concerts and talks in
sight, I see it was up to me to bite off the biggest slice of pie
myself, so I said I'd take the remainder. Of course with my influence
and name and all I would of had no trouble getting rid of them only by
asking prominent men like Goldringer and Rosco and the Dancing Trust
people beside a few more personal ones. And then when we had got this
far I see some of the ladies commence looking at their wrist-watches for
other reasons than to show they had them, and so hustled up the last of
the business which was merely how would we print our forms for
subscribers to fill out. Ruby suggested a gilt-edge card tinted violet
with whatever lettering I chose, and while I didn't care for it I
agreed, being hungry myself.

"I do think it is awful fine of you to take on that big amount," said
Pattie. "But you always was generous, Marie, I will say that for you."

"Ladies!" I said. "No thanks where they dont belong. Because I am
undertaking this sale for far other reasons than you suppose."

But since everybody by then plainly cared more for their lunch than my
reasons we parted, agreeing to send the money to my place on Sunday
morning.


IV

But I will here set down my unspoken reasons, which was that fine as it
is to walk out to your rich friends and pluck a thousand worth of stamps
per each off them and of course nobody but thinks the rich should have
them, too, I had a strong hunch that the reason for selling stamps at
five dollars or even two bits, was because every one could get in on a
good thing that way. Somehow there seemed something too up-stage about
going in only for the high spots, and after ordering the cards I hurried
home full of determination to make a stab at selling to the common herd
and with a terrible appetite and anxious as could be over the one
o'clock mail.

Well, the last two was doomed to a immediate disappointment because the
censor was sitting just as tight as ever and there was only cereal for
lunch. Believe you me it give me sort of a jolt when I sat down to so
little and Ma's face was not any too cheering. We commenced to eat in
silence which being both perfect ladies was the only thing to do as it
was also burned. But after a minute Ma lay down on the job. She pushed
her dish over toward me in disgust.

"Try that on your piano, Mary Gilligan!" she says.

"Well, Ma, you know what war is," I says. "And we'll get a good meal at
the Ritz to-night to make up!"

Well, anyways, sustained more by patriotism than by what I had eat, I
set out to put over a scheme I had all hatched out in my head for using
places which was already kind of organized, as my selling agents--do you
get me? And the first place I went was to Maison Rosabelle's
because--believe you me--that cheap dress I had bought off her needed a
plastic surgeon by then. Maison was as usual giving a unconscious
imitation of a trained seal, switching gracefully around the store with
a customer which she was hypnotizing into all forgetfulness of prices.
But finally I got her alone long enough to express what I thought about
the dress and any lady will be able to imagine what that was. Then I
asked her could she fall in with my scheme which was on Saturday to take
only Thrift Stamps or W.S.S. for each purchase and sell them the stamps
herself. Maison didn't enthuse over the idea, though she's rich at that.

"Why, dearie! Not on a bet!" she said. "It ain't that I'm not patriotic,
but this establishment is _exclusive!"_

Well, I seen there was no use arguing with her, and I guess there never
is with a woman which is marcelle-waved every day of her life, not to
mention that cheap fake of a dress. Next one I buy of her without a
guarantee will be for her funeral! So I just left her flat and went over
to Chamberlin's. Of course it takes a whole lot more brains to run a
enormous cabaret and restaurant like his than Maison has to use if less
nerve, he not coming personally into contact with the customers like she
does, and I counted on this. I went in by the main door where a lady sat
selling W.S.S. and she bored me to death with them while a captain went
to find Chamberlin. When I seen him coming I tried to assume that
sprightly and convincing manner of the sidewalk W.S.S. hounds, but was
overcome with that deep seated sense of being about to make a flivver,
which also shows on most of them. However, Chamberlin was a genial good
soul and was crazy over stamps. But he had beat me to it on the
admission only by buying stamps on Saturday night.

"Better try among your rich friends, Miss La Tour!" he says. "And you'll
be surprised how many you'll sell. That's the easiest way unless you use
a gun!"

"I don't want to sell to my friends," says I. "I want to sell to
everybody--get folks to chip in. The chipping-in idea is what is so
good--get together and all that."

Well, believe you me--after this I tried a dozen places and every one of
them, stores and all, where I had any influence or charge account, had
got theirselves so full of W.S.S. schemes that I felt like a helpless
babe in arms as the poet says, before I was through. There was no room
for my little $11,000 worth any place: they had all stocked up, and what
to do next I had no idea.

On the way to the Ritz that night Ma didn't talk steady like she usually
does and seemed kind of low in her mind, and maybe in her stomach also
which I was the same by then. Not to mention the censor which it is
better not to for fear I might say what I thought and he a Government
official.

But anyways no sooner was we inside the hotel than two society swells
tackled us for W.S.S. Oh, they was democratic, just! They spoke right to
us, and everything! But my goat was got by it.

"A regular hold-up!" I whispered to Ma. And as I spoke them fateful
words I remembered that I owned a gun, which it was left from a piece I
done for the movies and I had kept it for a souvenir. Of course I
dismissed the thought at once like the sensible woman I am. But somehow
it wouldn't exactly stay away.

Did you ever get to seeing things as they really was and wondering why
on earth people go through such a lot of motions pretending things is
not what they seem, as some guy so truly says--do you get me? As soon as
I had said "hold-up" I realized that that was just what was being done.
And when I realized that it was _necessary_ to hold up people in order
to get them to make a safe investment which would earn them a good net
profit while saving their fool lives, I got so raving mad that a gun
seemed too good for them. And mad at myself, too, for not seeing sooner
how much my own Jim's welfare was hanging onto my shoulders. Somehow up
to then I had really a idea that the bunch down in Washington was
relieving me of all trouble and responsibility about this war. But now I
seen it wasn't so. If the G.A.P. or Great American People was actually
such boobs that they didn't flock up and wish their life savings onto
such a scheme, they had ought to be made to, same as Ma used to hold my
nose for my own good and believe you me--I can taste that oil to this
day!

Well, anyways, this philosophy stuff kept going through my mind while
running up a considerable check which Gawd knows we needed it or the
undertaker would of conscripted us. And then all of a sudden who did I
see but Ruby Roselle only two tables away and with her a husky young
lounge-lizzard which goes around with her a lot--you know--one of the
kind whose favorite flower is the wild oat, but never has anything to
spend but the evening. And him and Ruby had their heads together and was
watching me like the German spies in a movie which every one in the
audience spots except their victims which of course are looking at the
director close up front which is certainly the only reason they are
fooled.

Well, anyways, I was surprised to see Ruby because Broadway places is
more her speed, and I never see her in such refined surroundings before.
But I realizing about her kind of patriotism I commenced wondering
wasn't she there to watch me? Though for what reason I had no idea.

That night after the show, I asked Goldringer wouldn't he use the
admission by W.S.S. Saturday, and he wouldn't because he had it on for
one of his other theatres. And so I went home in despair and a taxi, and
was further cheered by a empty letter-box.

In the morning the cards come--a thousand of them--and certainly more
elegant looking than I had expected, I will say that for Ruby and
reading as follows:

"The Theatrical Ladies W.S.S. Committee will deliver to ............ of
............ worth of W.S.S. stamps on presentation of this card.
Payment for same is hereby acknowledged."

Then came a blank which it was up to me to fill in. Well, I didn't
hesitate and after a hearty breakfast of crackers and milk and weak tea,
I tied up the lace sleeves of my negligee and set to work at signing
them. Believe you me, before I was done I quite see why President Wilson
used a rubber stamp! But I didn't weaken until noon, when any one would
have on the meal I'd had. And by then they was finished anyways and
every one of them valid and as good as my cheque. Then just as I was
feeling proud of myself in come Ma and I could see at once she was going
to take a fall out of me in her sweet womanly way.

"If you ain't too busy with your war work," says Ma very gentle but
firm, "I'd like to talk to you about something before we set down to
the skeleton lunch which is waiting and can be continued in our next for
all I care!" she says.

Well, I got that gone-around-the-middle feeling which I always get when
Ma gives me a certain look, just like I used to when she'd tell me soap
was good for washing out the mouths of kids which had told a lie. And so
I just set there and listened.

"Now, Mary Gilligan," she commenced. "Do you know the size of the cheque
you signed over to the hotel last night?"

"About twelve-fifty," I says sort of getting a glimmer.

"When your Pa and me was married he give me twelve a week for all our
meals!" she says, and set back and folded her hands in a way which said
all she hadn't.

"But times has changed," I says sort of feeble.

"But appetites has not!" says Ma. "And how can you keep in good training
on this war-nonsense?" she wanted to know. "Not to mention me, which it
might improve my figure but never my disposition?"

"But how about making war sacrifices and all, Ma?" I says. "Jim ain't
eating like we done up till yesterday!"

"Nor he ain't eating twelve dollar dinners at the Ritz, neither," she
reminds me, at which of course I shut up and she went on. "Now I dont
believe being stingy to ourselves is really gonner help the war. You
have strode in upon my department for once, Mary Gilligan, and I'm going
to put you out! You don't know where to economize and I do. No more
eating out, and a good sensible table at home, minus cream cakes," she
says, "is what we do from now on!"

And with that she marches out leaving me flat as one of her own
pan-cakes. Well, this was bad enough, but when Musette got after me as I
was dressing to go for my five miles, I seen that my humbling for the
day was not finished.

"That dress Madam bought yesterday," she began.

"You can have it!" I said, beating her to it, or so I thought.

"Thank you, I do not care for it," says Musette. "I was just remarking
it is really not fit to wear again. Madam would of done better to pay a
little more!"

Can you beat it? You can not! Two falls from one pride! Believe you me I
took _some_ walk that afternoon, and if I had wore a speedomiter I bet
it would have registered a lot over five miles. And while I was walking
I kept getting madder and madder and more and more worked up over what
boneheads people was and how was a person to economize nowadays and how
on earth would I sell all them stamps by Saturday night with a matinée
in between and keep my promise to President Wilson? It begun to look
like I was going to have to become one of them sidewalk pests. I got a
real good picture of myself going up to the proud or pesky passer-by,
and getting turned down so often that my spirit was bent thinking of it.

But--believe you me--I made up my mind that if I had to hold up anybody
to make them invest in the World's Soundest Securities or W.S.S. I would
hold them up good and plenty and no disguise about it. I thought again
about my revolver, the one which I had used it in the movies when I done
"The Dancer's Downfall" for them and kept it for a souvenir. I was that
wrought up over the situation that by the time I got home I had pretty
near decided I'd take that fire-arm to the theatre and lock the doors
and come down front center and shoot out one of the lights to show I
meant it and then take the money right off the audience. The theatre
being my native element it seemed only natural to pull the trick there,
only being a lady the gun really did look a little rough only not more
so than the public deserved.


V

WELL, anyways, I was certainly up against it with all them blanks still
on my hands and no way in sight of getting rid of them. And just to make
things nice and pleasant, what do I see when I come on the stage that
night but Ruby Roselle and her pet lounge-lizzard which were sitting in
a box. She certainly seems to go in for reptiles for pets. And no sooner
did I get off after my eighth curtain call, than around she comes to my
dressing room and hands me a check for her stamps and for the ones she
had undertaken to sell and already had.

"I suppose yours is all sold too!" says Ruby. "You are so efficient,
dearie!"

"Oh, mine are all right!" I snapped. "Or will be by this time
to-morrow."

"Why, ain't they gone?" she cooed. And did I wish for my gun? I did!
"Ain't you give any of them cards out yet?" she says.

"No!" I says. "But I will--I'll commence with you, dear Miss Roselle," I
says. "And here you are"--and I filled out the receipt cards which I had
a few in my vanity case for emergencies, and give them to her. When she
took them I noticed she had a awful funny look in her eye, but at the
time it meant nothing to me. Alas! Would I had heeded it more--but
no--solid ivory! Solid ivory! I passed it up completely. And Ruby
grabbed the cards, collected her new pet animal, and went away.

Well, my state of mind that night was distinctly poor, even after the
nice little well-ballanced war-ration of hot chocolate and corn bread
with brown sugar which Ma had for me and delicious as anything you ever
ate if she did get the recipe out of a newspaper and they so unreliable
nowadays. But no letter from Jim, and so after I had asked Ma if she
thought it was right to wear black, I went to bed and fell into a
exhausted sleep which lasted well on toward the box-office man's
afternoon on, because Ma always lets me sleep late when I have to dance
twice.

Well, anyways, I was so rushed getting to the theatre for the matinée
that I hadn't no time to try any of that sidewalk stuff, only I did get
a cheque from each of the other committee members and told Ma to send
them receipt cards. And did I feel cheap? I _did!_ A flivver, that was
what I had made. But so long as Jim was surely dead by now, I didn't
care for myself. Only my promise to Mr. Wilson made a lump in my throat
while doing my three hand-springs and the "Valse Superb," which shows
how bad I felt. And what do you know, when I took my encore, there was
Ruby Roselle again, down in front and all alone.

This got about the last butt out of my goat and I sent an usher to get
her, but Ruby had went before the usher had made up her mind to
undertake the mission. I was just about wild all the way home, and the
sight of Ma's face when I got there almost made me cry it was that sweet
and friendly. Honest to Gawd when Ma has got her own way about anything
she is just lovely to be with! And having got the kitchen back and the
grandest dish of baked beans all full of molasses and salt pork for
dinner, she was feeling fine and I was the same under her influence and
even let her play "Sing Me to Sleep" with the loud pedal on Jim's
souvenir afterwards and never said a word to her about it, though
suffering while I listened. And then it was time to go back to the
theatre and I took Musette and that whole box of gilt edged securities
which seemed no good to nobody, but I took them, and a good yet bad
thing I did, for on the way downtown I decided what to do, and when I
got there, called the ushers and gave them instructions and a little
something else by way of promoting kindly feelings. And then with
beating heart I beat it for the dressing room and commenced rubbing on
my make-up cream with trembling fingers.


Did you ever make one of them critical decisions which you knew in your
heart you was actually going to carry it through and no camouflage, even
if it killed you and it very likely to? Well, when I decided to make a
speech right out in public I got that feeling--do you get me? And any
Elk or other lodge member which attends annual banquets will know what I
mean. Honest to Gawd I nearly missed my cue, and after I finally got on
the stage the dance I did must of been either automatic or a
inspiration and I don't know why they liked it out in front, but they
did. All I personally myself could hear was "Ladies and Gentleman, I
want to speak a word to you,"--You know! And hand-springs in between!
Well of course when I come out for my first encore I didn't have the
wind to say nothing--But my eyes was as good as ever and there in a box
was Ruby Roselle again!

Believe you me--that was a jolt and a half! Here she had come to give me
the laugh I had no doubt, and somehow after the second call my wind was
all of a sudden back good and strong, and with it came my courage. For I
wouldn't of been downed by her, not for anything!

So stepping foreward in a modest manner I held up my hand and the house
got quiet and listened. As I have said, the show was at the Spring
Garden, and it's awful big and I had never knew how full of silence it
could be until I heard the sound of my own voice all alone in it. But
after a minute I got used to it, and so interested in trying to convince
the folks, that I didn't care.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," I says. "This is going to be a plain, good
old-fashioned hold-up! If you listen hard, maybe you'll hear the screams
of the women and children, and the groans of the wounded pocket-books!
Far be it from me to do anything so unrefined as to actually use a gun
on you," I says, "but I'm going to do the next thing to it. I'm going to
sell eleven thousand dollars worth of W.S.S. right here and now, and you
are going to buy them. I know all of you has probably been buying them
all day and is sick of them, but I have personally promised President
Wilson to do as much by to-night without fail and you must help me make
good. And no matter how many you have bought," I says, "unless you have
a thousand dollars worth you can spend another ten or so apiece. Now, as
I say, I know this is a hold-up, because it is meant to be. And any
public which can sit here in a theatre and feel anoyed at having to buy
a few stamps when a million of our boys is over in far-away, sort of
unreal France, giving their lives, had ought to have a machine gun
turned on them from this stage instead of a line of talk! Probably this
is the first time in the history of finances that it has been necessary
to jolly a crowd into making a good investment. If I was selling stock
in a fake gold mine," I says, "you would probably be climbing on the
stage to get it! Now will everybody willing to take ten dollars worth
kindly stand up?"

There was a few laughs, and a few people got up here and there, sort of
shamefaced.

"Come on!" I says. "Come on--are you all cripples? You over there--only
ten dollars--save it on next months grocery bill--all right--save it on
your auto bill!"

A few more got up then, but not nearly enough and I caught sight of
Goldringer in the wings by then and not having warned him what I was
going to do, I could tell by his expression that I mustn't hold the
stage too long or a militaristic system would right away be born in our
theatre. So I got desperate.

"No more!" I called. "Oh, come on get up! Will I send for crutches, or
are you only shy? Remember, I got that money promised! Only ten dollars
each!"

But no more stirred. For a minute I thought my flivver was complete, and
then I got a idea. I went over and beckoned to George, the orchestra
leader, and shaking all over at my own nerve, I whispered to him.
George grinned and passed along the whisper to his crew, and in another
minute that audience was standing, every last one of them, and--believe
you me--the Star Spangled Banner had never sounded so good to me before!

Well, anyways, my pep all come back and I jumped off the stage as I see
the ushers couldn't possibly handle the orders alone, and wait or no
wait, the way that audience took my hold-up was something grand, it was
that good natured, although of course a Broadway crowd gets sort of
hardened to having their money taken away from them roughly. They was
lambs, and took cards so fast I couldn't have shuffled them good if it
had been a game.

Well, anyways, when I finally got back to my dressing-room and the
trained animals had come on at last--believe you me--I was all in, but
not a card left, and not alone eleven thousand dollars but
thirteen-fifty in actual cash! I didn't worry none about having too much
as I never see a committee yet which couldn't use more money than it had
ast for, the White Kittens always having a deficit. And then I just put
the boodle away safe in my tin make-up box which I had emptied because
it locked good, and took me and Musette and it home to Ma.

Well, that was about all for that, and I had a fine sleep that night
after sending the President a wire telling him I had the money all
right. And if only the censor had loosened up, I would have been
perfectly happy, with all that cash in my little Burglar's Delight over
the mantle-piece and a good real energy-making breakfast coming to me in
the morning.


But alas for false security, as the poet says. No sooner had Ma and me
ate breakfast next morning than in came Musette and says there are two
gentlemen outside wants to see me. Well, it seems they wouldn't give
their names so I says show them in for on account of Ma always making us
dress in real clothes for breakfast Sundays, it was alright.

Well, in come two gentlemen then, and it was easy to see one was a cop.
Why he didn't have green whiskers or something I dont know because the
one citizen you can always spot is a cop, and that tweed suit was no
disguise, although he seemed to think so. I got a awful funny feeling in
my stomach at this sight although there was nothing on my mind but my
hair pins. The other was a gentleman and no disguise about him, and I
sort of took to him right away and dropped my society-comedy manner
which is such a good weapon of defense against strangers because I knew
right away he would see through it on account of him being the real
thing.

"Miss LaTour?" he says politely.

"Yes," I says, "what can I do for you?"

"Alias Mary Gilligan?" says the cop, which was right in character and
hadn't ought to of got Ma's goat like it done.

"Alias nothing!" says Ma. "Gilligan is her right name and you can see my
marriage certificate and the date is on it plain!"

"Better leave this to me for a moment, O'Rourke," says the nice
gentleman, about Pa's age, he must have been. Then he turns to me while
the cop took a back seat.

"Miss LaTour," the gent. began, "I am one of the local W.S.S.
committee--Pioneer Division--Pierson Langton is my name. And I have come
to see you concerning your sale last night!"

Well--believe you me--the minute I heard his name I had him spotted! One
of the F. F. V's of N.Y. and I had often seen his name in the paper
with war-work and all.

"Do sit down, both!" I says real cordial. "I am so glad to see you! It's
kind of you to come, because of course I was going to bring you the
money the first thing in the morning! Just wait till I get my make-up
box!"

And without giving him time to say another word I hurried out and got
it, the cop watching me with his hand on his hip. When I come back and
give Mr. Langton the box and key, he looked real surprised.

"Twenty-five thousand cash!" I says. "Would you mind counting it?" He
give me one of the funniest looks I ever had handed out, but he done
like I asked. Then he got up, box under one arm, and bowed, and sat down
again.

"Miss LaTour," he said. "I think I win a bet with our friend O'Rourke,
here! I was sure you were all right. Your reputation was on the face of
it too valuable for such an open fraud. And your utter disingenuousness
is the final proof!"

"Fraud! What do you mean?" I gasped.

"There's been a complaint about your selling W.S.S. without no
authority!" says O'Rourke at this. "Entered last night by Miss Ruby
Roselle. We got your cards here, that she handed in. But you ain't got
no stamps! I dont know but what we ought to make a arrest, Mr. Langton!"

"I will be obliged to you if you will let the matter drop for the
moment," says Mr. Langton. "This young lady acted in good faith, I am
convinced. And now, Miss LaTour, perhaps you will tell us how this all
came about?"

Well, did I tell him? I did! I never told anything readier. And then I
took out the President's letter which I had it on me, and told how I had
writ to him at once, partially because I couldn't read the other fellows
name.

"I accept the reproof," said Mr. Langton. "I will get a rubber-stamp
to-morrow!"

Then his eyes twinkled at me in the nicest way, and I twinkled back, and
after that I knew the cop hadn't a chance of running me in, which was a
big relief, for my hands felt like a couple of clams, about then, I was
so scared.

"So you ain't mad?" I says to Mr. Langton.

"Not a bit!" he says. "I think it can all be straightened out. But of
course you understand that what you did was a trifle--er--irregular. If
you will come down to headquarters to-morrow and meet the members of
our board, we will be glad to assist you in forming a more regular
organization."

And I said I would, and then we all said good-by real friendly, even the
cop. And I felt awful sort of excited and scared and glad that Ruby had
pulled that stuff, for if she hadn't I might actually of gone to jail, I
could see that plain enough now! And so, to let off a little steam when
they had all gone I sat down to my souvenir and started off "Over There
in Four Handed Arrangement." Then just as I had got it going good, Ma,
who was reading the Sunday paper, gave a holler. I turned around quick,
and there her eyes was popping out of her head and glued to the front
page.

"Jim!" she shrieked. "My Gawd!"

Well, how I reached that paper I don't know, but somehow I did and there
it was right in the middle column.

     "American Dancer Now An Ace. James La Tour Brings Down Three Enemy
     Planes In One Afternoon."

Oh, my heavens! Didn't I yell, just! And me knocking the newspapers and
the censor. And all the time Jim had been merely too busy to write!



III

HOLY SMOKES


I

                                                Palatial Apartments,
                                               0256 Riverside Drive,
                                                      New York City,
                                                   U. S. A. America.
  (Kindly forward if on tower)
   Passed by censor.

DEAR MARY:

Well say little one, I am certainly glad your health, new contracts and
the two fool dogs is both doing so nicely and as for the cigarettes they
were O.K. not to say swell. Only dearie, it ain't hardly necessary to
have my monogram on the next lot for Fritz has never waited for me to
catch up to him so's I could offer him one and he's about the only
person would be impressed by the J. La T. because our own boys kid me
about any little thing like that on account of their knowing me to be
your dancing-partner and not to mention husband and they are still slow
to realize that it takes a real he-man to swing you around my neck
twenty times like we do in the Tango de Lux, and I have to continually
keep showing them.

Then another good reason for no gold monogram is that the price of same
would cover quite a bunch of cheap smokes and dearie handing them about
is more to me than my own personal vanity and would be the same with my
shirts if necessary, while over here in distant Belgium I realise it was
also a waste to have them embroidered on the sleeve because the dam
chinaman always used to mark them up with monograms of his own anyways.

Speaking of money we used to spend on un-essentials before the war, I
tell you dearie we certainly learn in the army, especially since getting
into this recaptured territory, that many objects we would have swore
could not be done without is laid off like the extra people after the
ball-room scene and nobody misses them until somebody sends over one of
them--like them monogramed smokes of yours. Immediately I got them I
commenced to think about little old B'way and dry-martinis and my
little old roadster with the purple body and the red wheels, and us
dancing at the palatial with the juice full on us, red and green, violet
and amber. Oh Kid! it made me home-sick!! But then we got a order to
start on cleaning up after them Botches again and so I forgot everything
but you and my new step--which was forward, double line!

Well, sweetie, now about this smokes question. Of course your Ma having
been with the circus is used to giving up things, as naturally in a
trapese-act such as hers used to be she would need all the nerve she had
and even eating a welsh rabbit would of been a wild party to her. The
center ring is no joke and forty feet above it on a trapese from the
center canvas less so. But trapese work has not yet been offered to the
Allies except mebbe Itily on them mountains and any lady which starts a
society to keep smokes from soldiers may be strong in morals but is
surely weak in the head, which I never knew your Ma to be before. She
being always not only a lady but a great little picker on contracts and
what would we of done without her that time Goldringer tried to slip the
"satisfactory to the Goldringer Theatrical Productions Corp." stuff
over on us and she spotted it?

But for the love of liberty can this idea of hers about it not being
good for the boys to smoke and make her quit worrying about us tearing
around France learning no new sins. For sweetie the crimes a man can
committ on whats left of his pay after the alotment is took out and the
insurance and the liberty bonds instalments would be sanctioned by
anybody in the country even if his coller buttoned up the back. For take
it or leave it, liquor, ladies and lyrics is as expensive here as north
of 42nd str., and our pay dont go for them even after distracting the
above.

Why me and a fellow went off on leave to a general store in a town which
I couldn't spell for you much less mention it, even if permitted. But
anyways we went to it and Mac bought some winterweights and they was
four-fifty a pair and no better than the U.S. seventy-five cent kind,
and I got two pair socks a dollar per each and two bananas for 25c,
which only goes to show everything here is terrible expensive except
nessessaties. So dont let your Ma worry over me spending my remaining
nickel on vice.

I note what you say about the way folks at home get your goat by passing
the buck on war-reliefs--if it's chocolet they say they've just given to
tobacco, if it's tobacco they just bought a W.S.S., and if it's W.S.S.
they just got a hatful of bonds, or if it's bonds they just give their
last cent to chocolet--passing the buck all along the line. Well dearie,
I guess mebbe that's their way of getting a little war-relief of their
own, but as you say why would they need any relief when the fact that
they are for the most part without cooties ought to be relief enough in
itself? Let alone having to dodge only taxi cabs and bill-collectors
instead of shells. Only of course we dont have to do that now, only
shell-holes, and dodge them in a hurry to get one last look at the
German army before it puts on its good old soup and fish--or whatever
the German for civilized clothing is, that is if they have any.

But you are right girlie, to boost the smokes. We'll need them for a
long while yet. I know you have been obliged to keep your own from your
Ma and what with not really caring for peppermints it has been hard all
these years. But while her trapeese work stood alone in its day and no
one on Broadway is more respected at this writing and as a
mother-in-law I have no complaint on her outside of her wearing my
dress-pumps, this one time she is dead wrong. Soldiers are not always
acrobats and they do need to smoke and your Ma will put herself in the
small-time reform class if she dont look out. When I think of the stuff
I seen up and down Broadway and elsewhere in my days which could be
reformed and no one miss it, I get hot when I hear this talk about
keeping the army pure. Take it or leave it, but the truth is the Huns
has kept us pure alright--they sweat all the wickedness out of us
running after them.

But to get back to the tobacco stuff. Dont let nothing hinder you from
bothering everybody you see to send smokes. We'll use 'em up never fear!
And if you was to be walking down the Avenue or mebbe Broadway sometime
and a box in your hand and asking for Smoke Funds or something whichever
way its done--and your Ma was to fight her way through the howling mob
which would undoubtedly be surrounding you on account of course the best
known parlor-dancing act in America and the world wouldn't walk out
looking for funds and not draw a mob which was only too glad to see you
for five cents in the smoke-fund-box instead of two dollars in the box
office--well, anyways, if your Ma was to force her way through this mob
which with her weight she could do easily, why she would forgive you in
the end if not right there on the street, and I believe that a
hand-organ would start and play hearts and flowers at that.

Anyways, keep up the good work only never mind the monograms as long as
they taste like tobacco and can be lit. And if you fall out with Ma just
tell her this story which I will tell you and she will see mebbe God
didn't put tobacco in the world merely for little slum children to pluck
on their two weeks vacation in all its green beauty.

Well, the story is like this sweetie, and I will write it as good as I
can and if it seems comicle go ahead and get a good laugh only take it
or leave it, it was no comedy at the time. But if you was to news it
around mebbe the folks at home would start dropping something beside
coppers in them soda-fountain boxes you was talking about, and commence
trying to squeeze a quarter through the slot now and again. Come to
think of it, the biggest thing a copper penny can buy is the feeling a
person gets from dropping one in a Belgium milk bottle or home for
crippled children or Merry Xmas for the Salvation Army. You know the
cheap chest it gives you. Many a liberty bond has been left in the
Govts. hands by a prospective buyer stumbling on a "drop a penny" box in
a cigar store on his way to the cupon-cutters, or I miss my guess. I've
done the same in my day and the man who says he aint raised his own
stock with himself by giving a nickle to the Newsboys Annual Outing is
as big a liar as the guy which says he never loved another girl. And if
pennies was to be cut out of the currency a whole lot of cheap
philanthropists would have to make their conscience work or fight.

Well, anyways you go right on boosting the smoke-fund and never mind Ma.
She'll learn different some day.

Now about this story I was going to tell you. First off leave me explain
that the drinking regulations over here is different to uniforms than on
the Rialto and America. I hunch it that the managers and booking agents
and so forth in the U. S. Military Amusements Co. inc. figure that a few
of the rules have to be let down while the big show is on. Same as the
stars can lean against a No Smoking sign on the big time and roll a
makin's quite openly. So when on leave and even sometimes in the
dressing-room or I should say rest-billets a bottle of wine is not out
of order. Very different sweetie, from the night Goldringer gave me in
my uniform the big send off at the Ritz with all the newspaper bird and
the leads and everybody and me and you the only sober person present, do
you remember?

Well, its no news to you to say that I havent forgot I am a professional
dancer and good condition is my middle name for my future, not to
mention my present contract with Uncle Sam and that a sober man is worth
more to both--also to you and myself.

But the Allies dont look on liquor like we do. As a matter of fact they
seldom look on what we would call liquor at all, hardly ever getting a
glympse of anything hard such as rye, scotch or gin, and a cocktail
being practically a stranger and a repulsive one at that to them. But
wine is something different again. Which while with us it is the high
sign for a big party and flowing only in extremely good classes such as
at the lobster layouts--leaving aside dago spaghetti parlors when folks
is resting--with them it is a common matter and everybody drinks it and
while there aint much kick to it, still it has it all over the water we
get and coming under their idea of necessities, is low in price. Of
course by wine I do not mean champagne like we used to for publicity
purposes order for our dinner in public, but stuff made out of common
grapes, I guess, and with the seltzer left out.

Well, dearie, the reason I hand you all this info. is that the story I
am going to tell you got started because of this wine. "In Venus
Veritas" you know or so they say, and I confess that in trying to get a
little kick out of the stuff I got sort of lit and that's what caused me
the story.


II

WELL, we was sort of waiting off stage as you might call it, in a little
town in Belgium, our act having just been on and a pretty lively one it
was and the Captain give us a pretty good hand on it, although as you
know the audience didn't wait for the finish but left us their orchestra
seats or front line trenches which we moved into and then give up to the
next number on the bill and come back to watch from the wings, or would
of only we was a little too far off.

Well, the Capt. felt so good and the water was so bad that he sent a
delegation back for a little liquid refreshment. They have big jugs over
here like the molasses is kept in at home only here it is frankly boose
and no one pretends any different. And the game is this. The one which
volunteers for this dangerous work, if broke himself, takes a swig or so
out of the jug he is bringing back which it dont show on account of
their not being transparent and so the officer dont get any surprise
until toward the end of the jug and even so may think he took more than
he had thought. The private will take only a little from each but if
there is jugs enough many a mickle makes quite a jag.

Well, me and a fellow named McFarland and a French kid called Ceasare
was each given two of these molasses jugs which looked like props, and
was sent off to a village some place in congnito for you couldn't
pronounce it. And we was glad enough to go because among other things we
was short of smokes. Some cleaver actor had accidintly lit the last
mess fire with a bale of Virginias and there wasnt hardly a smoke among
us.

You just figure out how it would feel if you was to have a bath and do
your exercise and eat a swell breakfast and then realise there wasnt a
pill in the house! Think sweetie, how your brest would swell up with
alarm, and the royal fit you would throw while the elevator boy was on
his way to the corner drug store! Why figure even the way you feel once
you get a cigarette in your face and then cant find a match for two
whole minutes. Well, take it or leave it, I tell you that feeling is a
whole lot multiplied on the victorious fields of France when little
friend cigarette is notable by its absence. A empty house on an opening
night is nothing to it. So you can see where me and Ceasare and Mac was
glad to get in the neighborhood of one, leaving even all considerations
of the wine aside.

Well, we started out carrying each two jugs and as we went the fellow
which acts as usher, or sentry on the road hollers at us do we know the
way and Ceasare and him jabbered at each other in French in the
remarkable fluent way they do over here. And Ceasare laughed and when we
asked what it was he said the guy told him to look out Fritz didnt get
us on the open road, which was certainly some joke for of course we
hadn't been able to get near enough to Fritz to hear him in some time.
So we laughed, too, for if any snipers had managed to stay behind and
opened up on us we could of spotted them and wiped them out if they had
kept it up.

Well sweetie, there wasnt any road exactly toward the place we was bound
for on account of our having done considerable trespassing on private
property and taking little notice of fences whether barbed-wire or
civilian or shell-holes or trenches but having went straight ahead. And
after the last 5 years on upper Broadway you will realize it comes easy
enough to me, I often having come unharmed from the Claridge to the
Astor, and the French fields has nothing on that crossing. So to me that
first part of the trip was as little or nothing and I was the
cheerfulist of the party though we was all pretty cheerful and singing a
little song of Ceasare's which I dont know what it means but I guess I'd
better not write it in for fear you would.

Well, it was late afternoon and awful cold for the time of year, and I
was thinking that at home the frost was on the pumpkin and the pumpkin
would soon be in the pie and the turkey was about to get the axe and
Halloween was due and a lot of nice things like that. And after a lot of
kilomets had been covered, we come to the funny little town which looked
like the back-drop to the opening seane in a musical comedy only all
shot to pieces like it had been on the road with a No. 2 company for a
long and successful tower.

Well, we come to it, anyhow, and being on duty in a way as far as them
jugs went--we went with them and took what we could afford our ownselves
while we watched papa Ceasare fill 'em up. Then the tobacco dept.
claimed our attention only to find there wasn't any!

Well, sweetie, I have tried to put over the way I felt at these glad
tidings and the censor wouldn't of stood for it, so out she goes! But I
felt that way all right and so did Mac and Ceasare.

"I'll no beleeve ut!" says Mack which he talks a funny kind of way like
Harry Lauder. "I'll no beleeve ut--theer must be some someplace aboot!"

"Say la guyer!" says Ceasare and gives a shrug, although he was a lot
more disappointed than Mac on account of Mac's really caring more for
liquor than smoke any day. "Say la Guyer!" he says, and asks his pa why
it happened and his pa tells him and he translates it to Mac and me.

"He say a young lady have took it all only hour ago for free to
soldiers," he explains.

And take it or leave it, but I was certainly a little sore for although
I am the first to believe in the other fellow getting it, still this
time we all felt like the other fellow was us, and no doubt she had took
it to the nearest camp or hut, and so I ast which way was it she went
for mebbe we would get some of it. And then come a big surprise.

"No 'ospitil here!" Ceasare explained again. "An no 'ut! It ees too soon
after we take it. Then papa says she is first cross red lady we have
seen and she speak in French!"

"Well, that's funny!" I says--and of course dearie you understand this
had been enemy ground only a little before and that there was a
wine-shop going was a miricle and only for it being Ceasare's papa we
wouldn't of got none, which is how he come to be along with us.

Well, we all felt real sore and disappointed but took it like a man for
of course a red cross nurse would get it for the wounded and we had our
health.

So papa give us all another round and we took the big molasses jugs and
started off. It was getting toward twilight and pretty cold and I will
say it give me sort of sore feeling towards the folks at home and blamed
them for letting me be without a cigarette and you know how it is about
two drinks makes me a little sore at things and I began to cheer up
after the third and this was early in the evening.

Not so Mac. He has a talent for drink. Well, we had just about left the
motion-picture village behind us when he commenced to sing and while I
dont know what it was about, I will put it down this time because you
wont know neither.

    "Fortune if thou'll but gie me still
     Hale Breeks, a scone, an' whisky gill,
     An' rowth o' ryme to rave at will,
         Tak' a' the rest,

    "An' deal 't about as they blind skill
         Directss thee best."

Well, naturally we applauded which is always safe when you don't
understand a thing, and it certainly was comical for Mac is generally a
quiet cuss and a tightwad as well. Then I spoke up.

"These jugs is too heavy!" I says. "Let's lighten 'em up a bit."

Well they thought so and we done it and felt better and then I sang
them:

    "Give me your love
     The sunshine of your eyes!"

And both Ceasare and Mac commenced to cry. Mac set down his jugs and we
done the same and then Mac done the most generous thing I ever seen a
Scotchman do even in liquor. He reached inside his bonnett and took out
three cigarettes, shook the bonnett to show they was actually the last,
and give us each one and one to himself.

Well, we all sat down on a old motor chassis or what was left of it, and
burned them smokes like insense, not speaking a word! But putting that
red cross lady which had been ahead of us out of our minds and thinking
only of how we was going to give Mac our next packages from home when
they come, and he mebbe thinking of how he was going to get them. And
then we all made our jugs a little lighter and by this time it was
pretty dark and we commenced to hurry back. Before we had went very far
we had to hesitate about which way. Because sweetie, take it or leave
it, what you write about getting lost in the new subway has nothing on
finding your way about after dark by yourself in this part of the world.

Well, Mac was sure we come one way and I was sure we come another and
Ceasare he had a different hunch from either of us. So we all took
another little drink as it was getting mighty cold by now, and in the
end we started off Ceasare's way because why wouldnt he know best which
way was right and him born and raised right there on the farm? We
trusted to his judgment just like him and Mac would of trusted me to
tell the taxi-driver where to go from Keens.

So we went like he said, but somehow we didn't seem to get no place in
particular although we kept on going for a long time: I couldn't say how
long, but it seemed like a Battery to Harlem job to me only by now I
loved everybody but Fritz and a sort of fog had come up or so I thought,
and we was all singing, each our own sweet songs but at the same time.

"Lets throw away a few of these jugs," I remember saying--and really
there was so little in some of them it wasn't worth carrying back so we
just finished them off and threw them away and then we come upon a
little path--or it felt like it.

"Allou!" shouted Ceasare, "we are almost there!" and with that we sure
got the surprise of our lifes, for rat-tat-tat-tat-tat come a sputter of
machine gun fire right at us.


III

AT first we was very much jolted by this though unhurt, and then we
commenced to think it was a joke. Here we was going in behind our own
lines and being fired upon.

"Shut up, ye dam fools!" Mac hollered. "Can ye no recognize yer own
people?"

Then Ceasare yelled in French, but they paid no attention to us.
_Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat!_ it come again, and this time it made me real mad.
I figured that if they didn't quit their nonsense somebody was liable to
get hurt. So I saved what was left in my last jug, threw the thing
away, and told Ceasare and Mac to come on and leave us beat up the poor
boobs with the nasty sense of humor and show them where they got off.
Well, Mac and him thought this was a good idea so they done like I done
and we ran up the little hill which we could see our way pretty good in
spite of the dark because they never let up on us but kept right on
spitting fire. Well, we got very mad by this time and to tell the truth
I can't very well recall just what did happen only when we got to the
gun the boys was German!

Well, take it or leave it, I aint had a jolt like that since the night
Goldringer raised our salary of his own accord after we put on the La
Tour Trot. And I only wisht I could remember more about what happened.
But for quite a few minutes I was terrible busy; and I guess I better
admit I was tight--awful tight. Of course there was five of them and
only three of us, and equally of course we licked them badly and took
only one prisoner but not being anything for a lady to read I will not
give particulars and anyways I dont remember any. Of course it was one
of them few remaining nest of hornets which we had joked about, but
really hadn't believed was there.

Well, when it was all over but the cheering and we was sure these birds
had been all by their lonesome, we was pretty well sobered and hot and
everything. And the first thing we done was take a look around in a few
places for tobacco. And take it or leave it--we didn't find any! Not a
smoke among the lot! Watter you know about that?

But one good thing we got out of the scrap was our senses back and it
was easy enough to spot about where our own lines would be. So after we
figured it out, and taking Fritz, the one prisoner, along, we commenced
to start off that way and you can bet the poor boob was glad to go with
us. You would of thought he had wanted to be with us all the time. Just
like after a election at home. Cant find anybody who didnt vote the
winning ticket. Which joke you may not understand, sweetie, being a
lady, and I will not now stop to explain.

Well, we started back alright and as we come, I got the story which I
want to tell you which commenced really when we come to that old barn.
Only I had to explain how we come to be there or you wouldnt get the
idea of what I am driving at for you to make your Ma understand.

Ever since I fell out of my airplane and was in the hospital and
reenlisted the only place they'd take me back was in the infantry, I
done a lot of thinking--and some of it stuff which might mebbe sound
awful queer coming from me, especially after some of the language I have
been known to use in my day, and while I hope I aint become mushy, I
certainly do believe there is more to religion and such things than we
have thought. Take it or leave it, mighty few fellows have lived through
this war, far less fought through it, without getting religion of some
kind out of it. I wonder can you get me? And make Ma get it too. So I'll
tell what happened and you see if miricles is over yet or not for this
is a true fact and not a story somebody told me.

Well, after we cleaned up that machine gun nest and had a cute little
live German prisoner of our very own, we took him down the hill with us
the best way we could in the dark and it full of holes and what not.
There wasn't a bit of light--no moon nor stars nor nothing, and a wet
sort of smell that made us wish for a smoke the way hardly nothing else
is ever wished for, except mebbe a motion-picture salary or a drink of
water after a big night--not on the desert.

Well we got on pretty good because we was nearly sober now and Ceasare
he knew where we was going, and this time he really did, and so we kept
up pretty good. It commenced to rain a little and the big drops felt
awful nice against my cheeks which was burning hot. Made me think of
when I was a kid back in Topeka and digging out to school and a pair of
red mittens I had which my mother had made them--good knitting and well
made like the sweater I had on that very minute which she also knit. And
I thought of me and you and our snow-scene when we done that dance on
the Small Time with the sleighbells on our heels--remember dear? Before
we had really made good except with each other? And I thought about love
too and a lot of fool stuff like that. And then I heard a funny sound
for thereabouts. It was a woman moaning and crying.

Well, at first I thought mebbe I was crazy or imagined it, but Mac who
was walking in front with our own little Fritz stopped short and so did
Fritz and listened. It come again--the most dismal thing you ever want
to hear. I turned to Ceasare and he had heard it.

"Say drool," he says, which means "Its funny" only it wasnt and he didnt
mean it that way, but the other way. You know.

"It sure is!" I says. "There she goes again!"

"I think theers a wee bit housie over theere!" says Mac.

"It is the barn of my cousin's uncle," says Ceasare. "We better go
look."

So with that we started across the road to where sure enough was a funny
little barn--stone with a grass roof--peculiar to these parts, I guess.
The nearer we got the louder the noise was, but no words to it, only
sobbing very low and despairing and sort of sick--and a female--no doubt
of it. There wasn't any light nor anybody moving about as far as we
could tell.

"Gee! What'll we do?" I says in a whisper. "We can't pass it up!"

"Naw--we mun tak' a look inside!" whispers Mac.

"Certinmount," says Ceasare; "Mais--be careful! We put the Boch in first
and see if some trick is up!"

It being Ceasare's cousin's uncle's barn he knew where the door was,
and the three of us shoved Fritz up to it and made him understand he was
to open it and go in ahead of the crew. We finally got it over with
signs and shoves, because the bird didnt speak nothing but German and we
hadnt a word of it among us. But still we made him do it and he did, and
we pulled our guns and stood close behind and I stood closest and pulled
not alone my gun but the little electric flashlight you sent me which I
flashed in as quick as the door was opened.


IV

AND take it or leave it--there was a woman with a baby in her arms! She
was rather a young round-faced woman and that kid was awfully little and
held close under a big dark cloak the woman wore. The poor soul looked
tired out and she had no hat and her hair was all down. The inside of
the barn was a wreck and the rain was coming in through a big shellhole
in the roof. She was all alone, we at once got that, and at sight of the
German uniform which was all she seen at first, she give a shriek of joy
and got up onto her feet.

"Got si danke!" she cried. "Ich habe----"

Then she seen the rest of us and shrunk back, covering the kid with her
cloak. Fritz said something to her--quite a lot in a hurry, and
evidently told her he was a prisoner, and now that she had spilled the
beans, so was she. And of course even under the circumstances, she was.
But take it or leave it, I certainly did feel queer when I went up to
that lady with the little baby in that barn. For German or no German the
situation was--well--it certainly got my goat. I took off my hat and
made a bow.

"Lady," I commenced, "have no fear. Don't let us throw no scare into
you. We ain't Huns--that is, I beg your pardon, but what I mean is you
are perfectly safe and we will take care of you."

Well, the way she looked at me would of wrung a heart of stone. Her eyes
was blue and she just stared at me as if I had hurt her--which of
course was far from any mind there.

"Don't be scared," I says again. "You and the baby will get good care.
Just come with us if you are able!"

When I spoke of the kid she give the poor little smothered thing a quick
look and drew her cloak around it closer. Gee! but she looked fierce!
She had quit crying but not a word out of her!

"You try!" I says to Ceasare. "The poor thing mebbe understands French."

So Ceasare, who was as much shot to pieces at the sight as I was, come
forward.

"Madame!" says he, bowing with his cap in his hand. Then he shoots a lot
of French about restes, au succuoor, and stuff I know meant "cut the
worry." But she didnt get it any better than she had my line of talk,
and only kept on looking scared.

Well by this time Mac come out of his stupor; but there was no use
trying Scotch on her, that was plain. So there was nothing to it except
forward march. For one thing my torch wouldnt of lasted much longer and
for another it sure was getting late.

"Does your cousin's uncle which owns the barn have a house anywheres
near, where we could leave her?" I asked Ceasare.

"All dead in this town!" he says cheerfully. "And this is the only
building left I think it!"

"Then there's nothing to do but take her along to headquarters," I says,
and off we started, she not saying a word.

That was some trip! I want to tell you sweetie it was the worst part of
the whole war to me. You know I got a heart and I felt just fierce for
that poor little German mother. All the way in, while we was helping her
along I kept wishing I knew how on earth she come to get in that place.
She seemed real feeble at times and we lifted her across the worst
places. I tried to get her to let me carry the baby, but she held on to
it like grim death and wouldnt leave any of us touch it--and it was so
quiet I commenced to get scared.

"More than likely its dead!" I whispered to Ceasare and he thought so
too.

Before we got in, we had carried her almost a mile, taking turns with
her on our crossed hands, and the odd feller guarding our Hun. And then
we came to the end of about the very worst and longest hike I ever took
including the time the Queen of the Island Company got stranded in New
Rochelle. The sentry across that mud hole of a slushy road was the
welcomest sight in the world.

"Wot the 'ell yer got?" he says when he recognized us.

"One Gentleman Hun prisoner and one lady ditto in very bad shape!" I
says.

"Wot the 'ell!" he says again. And then he passed us and we reported.

Say sweetie, take it or leave it, but I had honest clean forgot all
about that wine which we had been sent for in the first place. I tell
you I was so worried about that poor woman! And it was not until the
five of us was standing in Capt. Haskell's quarters with the light from
his ceiling glaring at us and him also glaring from behind his mustache,
that I even commenced to remember it. But I had to report so I reported
for the bunch of us and in strict detail as good as I could remember.
All this while the woman sat in a chair, her face like a stone, and my
heart just aching for her.

Well, when I got through taking the most nervous curtin-call of my
life--and take it or leave it, if the German army would ever of been as
nervous as I was then, the war would of ended that minute. Capt. Haskell
beckoned to the lady.

"Come here, please!" he says very kind. "And let me see the baby!"

She got up and went over very softly. Then she stood in front of him and
commenced to laugh and laugh.

"Pigs of Americans!" she said. "Fools to carry me! That's not a
baby--its twenty cartons of cigarettes!"

Then she threw back her cloak and under it there she was dressed in Red
Cross uniform.

"I disguised myself and went to the village!" she went on in perfectly
good English. "And I bought all the tobacco there.

"On my way back to my own lines I was fool enough to lose my way and to
cry over it! That is all!"

And its enough, aint it dear? For you do get me, dont you? Them twenty
cartons of cigarettes was a miricle to us and the one we needed the most
of any right at that moment. Eh, what? as the English say. And her
taking such a chance to get them for Fritz shows how bad off the German
army must be, don't it? And so tell this to your Ma and get her to quit
that foolish anti-smoke society she's forming--because its the bunk--and
I am ever your loving life and dancing partner, JIM.

P. S. Just got your letter. That certainly is a good one on Ma. Smoking
a pipe! And if you hadnt opened the door so sudden you'd never in this
world of caught her. And if she does claim her grandmother did it too,
all you got to say is so did many a soldier's grandmother.

P. S. No. 2. I forgot to say that a French General has given us a kiss
on both cheeks and a medel for that job. And its the first time I ever
got anything but a headache by going on a party.



IV

ANYTHING ONCE


I

AINT it funny the things that comes into a person's head when they are
rubbing cold cream onto their nose? All sorts of stuff, some of it good
sense and some of it the bunk. But most of it pretty near O.K. If some
one was to take down the ideas I get at such a sacred hour, I'd be out
of the dancing game and into the highbrow class just as quick as the
printer got through his job.

It sure is a time when a woman's true thoughts come to the surface along
with the dust and last night's make-up, and many a big resolve has been
made owing to that cleanly habit. Wasn't there some wise bird made up a
quotation about cleanliness being next to God knows what? Well, believe
you me, its the truth, for once a woman starts in with the cold cream
all alone,--and she sure does it at no other time--there is no telling
what will come of it beside a clean pink face.

With me personally myself, thats where most of my ideas about life come
from--right out of the cold cream tube! And while indulging in this well
known womanly occupation the other evening I commenced thinking about
rest and how important it is for us Americans--and of the way we go
after it--like it was something we had to catch and catch quick or it
would get away from us. Do you get me? If not, leave me tell you what a
friend of mine, which has just been mustard out of the service says to
me, when I was checking up his experiences abroad while he was checking
up what the waiter had put down.

"My idea of rest?" he says. "Why taking Belleau Woods after three
restless weeks in the trenches," he says.

Which sort of puts the nut in the shell, as the saying is. And also at
the same time reminds me of the rest I just recently took.

Not that I generally need one any more than any other thoroughly
successful star, for heavens knows the best known parlor dancing act in
the world and Broadway, which mine undoubtedly is, dont need to rest
because the managers theirselves always come after me and resting I
leave to the booking-agency hounds. But this time it was bonea fido, and
come about in a sort of odd way.


To commence at the start it begun with me falling for the movies, which
Gawd knows I only done it for the money, their being no art in it, and
they having hounded me into them for a special fillum. And of course
many well known girls like Mary Garden and Nazimova go into pictures and
even myself, but its simply because of being hounded, as I say. But once
in you earn your money, believe you me, and I have stood around waiting
for the sun like Moses, or whoever it was, until my feet nearly froze to
the pallasades before jumping off, only of course it was a dummy they
threw after I had made the original motions of the leap to death. And
the worst part is once you are signed up on one of these "payment to be
made wheather the party of the first part (thats me) is working or not"
you got to do like they say, and a whole lot of the "not working" means
plain standing around waiting for the director or the camera-man or the
rain to quit, and what us public favorites suffers when on the job is
enough to make the photographor's Favorite of Grainger, Wyo., abandon
the career she might of had in favour of domestic service or something
like that where she'd get a little time to herself.

Well anyways my judgment having slipped to the extent of having signed
my sense of humor away for six months at twenty-two hundred a week, I
was in the very middle of a fillum called the Bridge to Berlin when one
day, just as a big brute of a German officer by the name of O'Flarety
had me by the throat in a French chateau, the studio manager comes in
and says the armistice is signed and the war is over, and we was to quit
as who would release a war fillum now and we was to start on something
entirely different, only he didn't know what the hell it was to be and
here was eight thousand feet wasted--and believe you me I was sore
myself for we had shot that strangling sceene six times by then and my
marcelle wave was completely ruined by it, and I would of liked to of
had something to show for it.

But anyways, orders was to quit and so me and Ma and the two fool dogs
and Musette left the wilds of Jersey and after a stormy voyage across
the Hudson come safely home to our modest little apartment on the drive,
there to not work at 22 hundred a week until Goldringer got the studio
manager to get the scenario editor to get me a new story, which at the
price was not of long duration for while Gawd knows they dont care how
long a person stands around waiting to be shot, they just naturally hate
to pay you for doing the same thing at home in comfort.

Well anyways the bunk that scenario editor picked out was something
fierce. I wouldn't of been screened dead in it. But it just happened I
had a idea for a scenario myself, which come about through somebody
having give me a book for Christmas and one night, the boy having forgot
to bring the papers, I read it. And was it a cute book? It was! I had a
real good cry over it, and while it wasn't exactly a book for a dancer,
I could see that there was good stuff in it. So finally me and Ma
stopped into Goldringer's office after he had twice telephoned for me
and handed him a little surprise along with the volume.

"I got a idea for a picture, Al," I says, "and here's the book of it."

"Well Miss La Tour, what's the name of it and idea?" says he, chewing
on his cigar strong and not even looking at the book but throwing it to
the stenographer, which is a general rule always in the picture game and
one reason we don't see such a crowd of swell fillums.

"The name is Oliver Twist," I says. "It's a juvinile lead the way it
stands, but I want it fixed up a little, with me as Olivette Twist--the
editor can fix it so's that will be all right. It's really a swell part.
I could wear boy's clothes some of the time."

"Huh! Olivette Twist," says Goldringer, taking back the book and looking
at the cover of it. "Always thought it was a breakfast food! But if you
say its O.K. we'd better get it. Where is this feller Dickens? We'll
wire him for the rights. Friend of yours?"

You see, if anybody brings scenarios personally, a star in particular,
it's generally a friends.

"No," I says. "It was sent me by Jim along with a letter which shows the
bird is well known," I says. "And is in Westminister Abby, London,
England, which Jim says proves his class.

"Must be a swell apartment," says Goldringer. "All right we'll send a
cable to him and see if the picture rights is gone or not. If the boy
is so well known he may stick out for a big price. This is Thursday. We
may hear from him by Monday or Tuesday, and we'll get a scenario ready
anyways so's we can begin to shoot not later than a week from to-day.
Until then," he says, "run along and amuse yourself and dont do anything
I wouldnt."

Well, me and Ma was shown out then and down on Broadway Ma see some
salt-water taffy in a drug-store and wanted to go in and by it which I
had to prevent because outside of Ma being in no need of nourishment,
she weighing considerable over the heavy-weight requirements already and
Gawd knows if she was to have went back into the circus it would no
longer be on the trapeese and a certain party in the side-show would
have a strong competitor for her job and it wouldn't be the human
skeleton either. But leaving off the consideration how would it look for
us to go up the Ave. in my new wine-colored limousine which I earned
myself and no one can say different with truth--and eating stuff like
that out of a folded paper box? Ma certainly has my health well in hand
and heart and its seldom we quarrel over any little thing, but she
certainly has no class instinct, or instinct for class--do you get me?
And when I try to make her see that them little refinements is what
makes me the big success I am, she sometimes kicks and if its hunger,
its got to be met immediately if not one way, why then another. So in
lieu, as the poet says, of the taffy I had to take her to the Ritz and
watch her put away 6 vanillia eclairs at two bits each and a quart of
cocoa, not that I begrudge the money, only believe you me the way all
hotels charge nowadays is rapidly making Bolshivik out of even we
capatalists. Do you get me? You do! But of course in my line you got to
keep before the public in the right way.

Well anyways Ma complained over the loss of that taffy the whole way
through the six eclairs, which it was certainly a little hard on me to
have to sit there and watch her while for professional reasons eating
only one of these tomato surprises which never surprise but the once, on
my figures account, and certainly its a fact that the two of us was
doing the next best thing to what we wanted instead of the thing itself
which is one of the prices of success. So, as is also often the case at
such times, I was a little mean to Ma on account of having been mean
already--do you get me?

"Mamma," I says. "You certainly are getting heavier. It's a crime for you
to wear these narrow skirts!"

Ma give me a searching look the same as used to lead up to caster oil
when I was a kid, and then took the half of a eclair at one bit before
replying.

"Now Mary Gilligan you needn't take out your artistic temperament or any
other ailment on me!" she says as firmly as the eclair would permit.
"Just because Jim is in France yet, and your moleskin dolman was a
failure and you aint been occupied daily for a week or more, and slipped
up on doing your setting up exercises this morning which I wouldnt of
mentioned only you started it," she says. "Its no excuse for picking on
me," she says. "What if I am a little plump? My Gawd aint I earned the
right to be? What with three kids and your Pa to bring up and the center
trapeese in the circus right through it all except when absolutely
necessary? You dont know what a woman _can_ go through!"

"Dont I, just!" I snapped for my Gawd aint it the truth every woman has
the very worst troubles that any woman ever had? And she sure gets sore
when another woman sets up to go them one better!

"No you don't!" retorts Ma with that maddening air of being older than
me which she uses to squelch me every time she cant get me any other
way. "No you dont!" she says. "You never brought up three kids without a
nurse girl while on the trapeese--you never brought up a thing but two
fool dogs and you even leave them to the carelessness of a personal
maid," she says. "Poor dears, Gawd knows what will become of their
little canine minds and morals!"

"Now Ma!" I begged, because she aughter know that is a sore point with
me and not intention, and she had me on the raw.

"Well then!" she says. "You got a swell job and no troubles only mabe a
sluggish liver and you aint the only woman in America which Gen.
Pershing cant yet spare the husband of," she says. "And mabe I do need
to reduce a little," which was her way of apologizing. And just as this
lull occurred who should come into sight but Maison Rosabelle, her which
runs the shop where myself and all the most chic professionals gets
their clothes. She was all dressed up like a plush horse with real
sables, part of which must of come off them simple refined little gowns
I had made for the Bridge to Berlin that was ruined by the armistice.
Her hair had just been rehennered and her face was as fresh as a
tea-rose straight from the fragrent facial massage. She smiled and
sailed down on the two of us which we welcomed with the usual relief of
a family quarreling when neither sees the way to win out and have got to
go on living together. In other words she automatically buried the
hatchet for us, as the school books say.

"So pleased to of run into you, dearies!" she says. "For I'm goin' to
Atlantic City to-morrow for a little rest."

No sooner was them words out from between her lip-rouge than I see a
vision of salt-water taffy arising in Ma's eyes. Believe you me Ma is
certainly hard to pry loose from anything she has once set her mind on!
And Maison had to continue in that cordial manner.

"Why dont you run down for a few days?" she says. "It'll do you good.
You're looking kinda pulled down Mrs. Gilligan!" she says--and of course
Ma fell for that.

"I do feel a little low!" she says, finishing off her cocoa. "And
Mary--Marie here is waiting until they get a answer to a cable which
was sent to England by the studio. I understand we may have quite a
wait, so I really believe we might go along."


II

NOW as I looked at Ma it come over me that mabe she had the right dope.
When people that live together, especially if not friends, but
relations, commence to get a little on each others nerves, going away on
a trip is good for what ails them. The only trouble is that in the case
of females they generally go together. Still, with the whole bunch of
new and different stuff it gives them to fight over--R.R. tickets, and
who wired for these horrid rooms, and I told you to bring a heavier
coat, and etc., they generally get straightened out quite a lot. Even
the idea of going along with Maison didnt worry me then, I having been
on tower many a time when the No. 1 Company went out and Ma the same for
years, and we generally speak, even to the publicity man, no matter if
we have made Rochester, Buffalo and Chicago in a quick jump playing
matinées as well. So I am without the wholesome and well founded fear
of taking a pleasure-trip with friends which is the bitter fruit of most
persons experience of the same. Besides, I sort of like Maison, which of
course her real name is Maisie Brady, and her funny little husband,
which is also still in France, she not being dependant any more than
myself nor would she hold him back from serving his country only I dont
hardly believe she urged him to go for quite the patriotic reasons I
did, he having been a traveling man and so when he retired on her income
she didnt feel as natural and affectionate and homelike and all that as
when he was away most of the time. But at any rate I and she were both
war-widows and old friends from the time her mother was lady-lion tamer
and mine on the trapeese, and so in spite of the bills she charges me
she has more refinement than most people and so I says all right, we'll
go to Atlantic City and we'll be on the one twenty train to-morrow.

"Thats sweet, dearie!" says Maison. "We'll get a swell rest!"

Then she set sail and was off with a Jewish gentleman friend, which had
been waiting at the entrance all this time with a gardenia in his
buttonhole. And Ma and me called for the check and dogs and limousine
and hitched our way homeward through the traffic to our quiet little
apartment with 7 windows with the beautiful outlook of the river and the
R.R. tracks and etc.

Then while Musette packed only three trunks and my gold-fitted dressing
case and a couple of hat boxes and my specially designed jewellery box
and the travelling hamper for the dogs, we having decided to travel
light and probably not stay over three or four days, Ma went into the
all-tiled kitchen and commenced getting up a little smack of cold beef
and potato salad and fried cheese sandwiches and coffee and a few hot
biscuits and honey so's we wouldn't have to go out and eat, which Ma
certainly loves to do and no cook ever stands it for more than a week
and the current cook's week was up that morning before we went downtown.

Well anyway while she was doing this I went into the drawing-room which
is all fitted up in handsome gold furniture--that the dealer said was
one of the Louis periods. Louis Cohen I guess,--I never remember quite.
And to put a record on the phonograph in the case I had especially built
in the same style at fifty dollars extra and all the instalments paid,
and streached out as good as I could manage to on the chaise loung,
which is a sort of housebroken steamer-chair, and while John Macormik's
own voice sang my little grey home in the west to me in the privacy of
my own home, I thought dreamingly about Jim and how much I was missing
him and how swell we danced together and how kind and loving and brave
he was and how refined, and believe me he's about the only theatrical
male that don't murder a dress suit, and how horrible it was to be
seperated from him after being married only two weeks and what fools we
was to have danced together in every first-class theatre in America and
only got married so recent, for if only we'd been married sooner mabe
the pain of seperation wouldnt of been so great by now. Who knows? And
believe you me it was some pain, and I had myself crying before I knew
it. For I sure am stuck on that poor simp and my only war-work aint been
done on the screene, Gawd knows, when I give him up to whatever the
Allies was fighting for, which if it dont turn out to be as represented,
believe you me, myself and a whole lot of other girls is going to want
to know why!!

Well anyways, before Ma had the biscuits baked and I had run jada jada
and sing me to sleep, I was wild to get away to the pure country ocean
air and some healthy outdoor exercise which would help me forget my
loneliness. And a lot of quiet and rest and sleep, with the ocean
pounding me to the pillow and all that.

I had only a sort of twenty minute small time sketch of a idea of what
Atlantic City was like on account of me having been there for openings
only and getting in at four forty five with the show beginning at eight
fifteen and the washup you need after the trip and Ma always insisting
on me doing a twenty minute practice in my room and underwear before
every opening which is perfectly correct and one of the principal things
which has made my handsprings what they are, and getting dinner far
enough in advance to do the hand-springs in time. I knew little nor
nothing of what Jim calls the Coney Island that went to finishing school
except that there is swimming and horseback riding and a boardwalk that
any one without French heels to catch in the cracks can have a elegant
walk on. What little sniff of air I had outside the theatre and my
bedroom at the hotel give me a appatite for more, which up to now I
never had the opportunity to get because of always being with a
high-class show that went right back to N.Y. Sunday to open on Broadway.
But now I was going like a regular American lady citizen to rest and get
full of health and do as the regular resorters did. And I was glad. I
was so anxious to keep myself in a pure atmosphere for Jim's sake and
the studio wasn't exactly the farm--do you get me? You do! And a rest in
the country was the very thing. I got quite excited thinking about it;
dried my tears, stopped the phonograph and made sure that Musette put in
my riding suit, bathing ditto, and walking boots. And when this was done
I felt better already as the saying is, and fully able to take some of
the nourishment Ma had got up.

The minute we set down to the table I see that she had also been making
good resolutions and waited till she got ready to confess. It come after
the seventh tea-biscuit and honey. On her part I mean, I only taking
coldmeat and salad and things I dont like much, for reasons before
stated.

"Mary Gilligan!" she says. "I believe I'm getting heavier," she says,
just as if it occurred to her for the first time. "And I have decided
that while I am away to Atlantic City I wont eat to amount to anything
and reduce in other ways the whole time I'm there!"

"You dont say," I says, without batting an eye. "Do you really think you
need to?"

"I do!" she says. "This is my last real meal. And you needn't try to
persuade me out of it."

I didn't. And next morning right after breakfast we caught the one
twenty, hats, dogs, Musette, and all, and met up with Maison Rosabelle,
which was dressed in a simple little trotters costume of chiffon and
ermine which looked like it had been made in Babylon. I mean B.C. not
L.I. And with her was a little surprise in the way of the same Jewish
gentleman, Mr. Freddy Mayer, with another gardenia on him and a fine
line of plausable explinations.

"Aint it a co-co-strange, Freddy just happens to be going our way!"
cooed Maisie with all the innocence of a N.Y. livery-stable pidgeon.

"Yes, I'm taking a special offering of champagne to a special friend in
the hotel business there," says Mr. Freddy. "And with three such
beautiful lady companions its no hardship to leave Manhattan behind nor
the Bronx," says he gaily. "Altho when we come back we may find the
Aldermen has decided to change both names after July first," says the
humorous dog.

"Will you please kindly open this window a little?" I intrupped him.
"The air in here aint so good as it was."

I dont know did this get over, but believe you me I didn't care for that
well washed young wine-seller at all, nor for his company. And it was a
relief when he done as I asked and him and Maison found their seats was
at the other end of the car. In a way I can understand her liking
traveling-men but not up to the point of traveling with one, even by
semi-accident. And so opening the Motion Picture Gazette to look at the
double-page spread of myself "Who has at length been lured by the
artistic possibilities of the picture world," and keeping a eye on Ma to
see would she stop the candy-boy, settled down to the soothing sound of
Maison's laugh, and begun my quiet little trip to Healthland.

There is a large variaty of ladies which have husbands still in the
army, but believe you me they certainly got one thing in common, or
else no looks at all. And that is, the temptation to take up with other
company to some degree. Because of course while the war was holding the
stage a husband's absence could be stood, but what with this
peace-hyphen in the fighting and everything, you cant help but commence
wondering what kind of a girl is detaining him over there and feel
inclined to have a understudy kind of waiting off stage in self defence.
For believe you me, there seems to be something sort of attractive about
a war-widow and the ones which ignores the fact and minds their own
affairs is the real patriotic women of America.

Not that I want to say a word about Maison, and what happened to me
after the end of that train ride on which I was sitting so
superior-minded, taught me a lesson; because its a cinch to be good when
you want to be. A person which has suffered themselves is slow to bawl
out the other fellow so quick next time. Do you get me? Not yet.

Well, after we had rolled by the lovely scenery and read the handsome
ad. signs on either hand, not to mention the pipe-line, and got the
invigorating smell of low tide in our eager nostrils, we come out on
that quiet little country railroad station platform, our destination, to
be greeted by only several hundred busses and a thousand or so
taxi-cabs, each yelling at the top of their voices. As we got off the
train Maison rushes up to us and pipes a cheering little question.

"Where are we going, dearie?" she said, blithly.

"Where are we going?" I says. "Maison Rosabelle, do you mean to say you
didn't wire no place for rooms?"

"Why no!" says Maison. "Didn't you?"

"Certainly not!" I says. "I never wired for rooms in my whole life. The
advance agent always done that for me."

"Well Mary Gilligan, I'm not your advance agent!" she snapped, and then
she kind of looked at Mr. Freddy in a sweet, helpless womanly fashion
expecting him to fork up a little help. But it seems Mr. Freddy was one
of these birds that only think to take care of his own comfort. He had a
room alright at the Traymore. And he meant to keep it!

"We'll take the bus to there," he suggested. "I'm sure there'll be lots
of room."

But no bus for me on account of professional reasons. So we took one
taxi for him and us and another for Musette and the dogs and the bags,
and then commenced a round of seeking for shelter as the poet says,
which had the "Two Orphans" skun a mile. We went to six hotels and not a
room among them. Believe you me, there is just one person can make you
feel cheaper than a Atlantic City hotel clerk when he says "No
reservations?" and lifts his arched brows, and that is the head waiter
when he says "nothing to drink?" and you say "yes, nothing!" Well, thank
Gawd thats one thing prohibition will prohibit.

Well anyways, we tried six hotels until at last we come to a little
place where the young feller at the desk give his reluctant consent to
our admission. It was a simple little place done quitely in red plush
and gold and marble columns, very restful with not over a hundred people
sitting about in the lobby, listning not to the sad sea waves but to a
jazz orchestra and inhaling the nice fresh tobacco smoke of which the
air was full.

Well, Mr. Freddy give a gasp of relief and bid us good-by, after dating
up Maisie for dinner, and a flock of bell-hops hopped upon our stuff
and we commenced a walking tower to our rooms. As we started off down
the Alleyway, Maison give me a nudge.

"Look it, that sweet young officer! Aint he handsome?" she whispers only
just loud enough for him to hear. And before I thought I turned my head
and he certainly was easy to look at. He looked, in fact like a cross
between a clothing ad. and a leading juvinille with a touch of bear-cat
in him to make a regular he-man out of him. He was a captain, although
so young, and had a cute little moustache and had that blue-blooded
air--you know--like a Boston accent even without hearing him speak. And
he was sitting all alone under a big poster advertising a entertainment
for the benefit of blind soldiers or something. Of course I didn't
notice him at all, because I being a perfect lady I dont do them things.
But I couldnt help seeing that he didn't blush at what Maisie said,
although I knew he heard it, but a sort of crinkly expression come up
round his nice blue eyes as if he thought us comic or something. It made
me just boil because my clothes is nothing if not refined and I never
wear anything but a little powder on my nose when off the stage, and if
its one thing gets my goat it is to be taken for a show-girl which
undoubtedly he thought the two of us was and they not in his class, for
even with the passing glance I had taken I could see he was used to the
Vanderbilts and all that set and had never had to be taught to take his
daily tub. Do you get me?

So I walked like I hadnt looked, and of course I really hadnt, and
proceeded to the before the war section of the hotel and the handsome
suite all fitted in real varnished pine and carpets just like a
Rochester boarding house when I was on the small time before I made my
big success, and it made me feel quite at home or would of only for what
I knew the difference in price was going to be. I guessed it just as
soon as I heard Ma gasping over the hotel rules which she was reading. I
went over and looked at them too, and at first I couldn't see nothing
unusual about them. There was the usual bunk about the management not
being responsible for the guest in any way, and Gawd knows how could
they be and I dont blame them. And then, a little ways down I see what
had got Ma stirred up. It seems dogs was ten dollars a week per each,
and of course we had two of them and Ma never has cared for my two,
anyways.

"Well, I hope the sea air will be good for the poor little lambs," she
says very sarcastic. "Mebbe it'll make 'em grow--into police-dogs or
something useful!"

Well I see by this that the salt air had not yet got to Ma, although the
troublesome journey had. And so I put on a simple little suit of English
tweed and low heeled shoes and a walking hat, which seemed to me the
right thing for the country, and went out to pry off a little health
before dinner.

The outdoors was something grand. The air was as good a cocktail as a
person would want, and the lights along the boardwalk was coming out
like dandelion blossoms. There was hardly anybody around--just a few
here and there and the surf of that wide and cruel ocean which Jim was
the other side of, was breaking close to the rail in big white ostrich
plumes. Overhead the sky was as clear and high as a circular drop with
the violet lights on it, and a few clean stars was coming out. It was
just cold enough to make a person want to walk fast until the blood got
singing through you and you wanted to shout and run, only of course no
lady would. But just the same, I commenced to feel glad I hadnt died
when I had the measles, and I loved everybody and had a great career
before me and--and--oh that grand yearning happy feeling which comes out
of being young and full of strength and a good bank-account. Do you get
me? You do!

Well anyways, here I was walking like I had money on it and huming a
tune to myself, when along comes a man the other way, walking two to my
one, and huming the same tune, "How I hate to get up in the morning," it
was. When he heard me and I heard him we both sort of half stopped out
of surprise, and I got a good look at him. It was the young Captain from
the hotel.

He also give a start of surprise when he seen me, showing he recognized
me just as good as I did him. Only it was a real, genuine start, as if
he realized something more than the fact he had seen me at the hotel.
Then he smiled--a smile which would of done any dental ad. proud, and
passed along, looking back over his shoulder--once. While I went along
minding my own business and only know he looked back on account of my
happening to look back to see how far I had gone. I went a mile further
and somehow that smile of his stuck in my mind and made me sort of happy
for no reason, and at the same time awful extra lonesome for Jim. I made
up my mind I would get Jim a new car for a surprise when he come home
and I would send him a extra box of eats this week and some of them
cigarettes he likes so well, and a whole lot of stuff like that, the way
a woman does at such a time. Do you get me? Probably.

Well anyways, I walked myself into a terrible enthusiasm over Jim, and
then come back to the hotel. Which, by the way, its a strange thing how
much further it is coming back to a Atlantic City hotel than walking
away from it. And there at the door was Ma with the two dogs. A real
strange sight for I never knew her to take them out before, and it
looked like a guilty conscience, for she give me a peek out of the
corner of her eye for some reason and then hastily explained how she had
thought she'd take them herself this time instead of Musette. Well, we
got rid of the dogs and then come down to dinner where Maison sailed
down upon us all dressed up and no place to go, for it seems this Mr.
Freddy had stood her up on the dinner, having telephoned he'd be over
later with a friend or two but business prevented him paying for her
meal, or at least thats what I expect he meant. And Maison was wild. But
she had to eat dinner with us, and register a bunch of complaints
between bowing to friends and so forth.

"The luck I have!" she says. "That guy Freddy doesn't think any more of
a nickle than he does of his right arm! And with all the conventions
which is held at this town of course we would have to pick on the date
the Baptist ministers was here! Its a fact! The clerk told me. And what
is more if there ain't Ruby Roselle and Goldringer and will you look at
that wine and it twelve a quart without the tax! Well, of all things!"


III

And there sure enough was Ruby across the room with Goldringer, which he
evidently had come down to wait for the answer to that cable in the
fresh air, and I suppose Ruby was a accident, the same as Freddy, for
goodness knows, I wouldnt say a thing against her even behind her
back--and a good deal could be said behind what shows of it when in
costume. But I wouldnt say it anyhow, because even if it was the truth
that woman would sue a person for liabale if only to get her name in the
paper. And if she happened to be taking dinner with Goldringer, Gawd
knows, its a comparatively free country and he's her manager as well as
mine and its a good thing to assume its only business whenever possible
as thinking the best of people never hurt anybody yet.

Also across the room all by himself was that young Captain, and he
looked over twice but of course I pretended it was the picture on the
wall over his head which had took my eye. Altogether that strange dining
room wasnt much more lonesome to us than the Ritz or Astor for tea would
of been. But the most remarkable part of the meal was Ma. Because she
didn't touch it! Actually, and it the American plan which would tempt
one of these Asthetics if for no other reason but that you have to pay
for it anyway. And all she took was a piece of meat about the size of a
dime and a leaf of salad.

"I'm going to stick by what I said if only because you said I wouldnt!"
she says, looking me square in the eye. "Diet is my middle name."

Well, I mentally give her until to-morrow on that but said nothing at
the time. And we went out into the lounge where Mr. Freddy and three
friends was already lounging and after they had joined us, Goldringer
and Ruby did the same, and the drinks commenced to flow with that
frantic haste like into a river at the edge of the ocean as the poet
says, meaning because its near its finish. While I, never using any
alcohol myself except to remove my make up, sat there flushed with Bevo,
and couldn't help noticing the way the Captain which he was still all
alone, looked over at the menagerie, and it made me boil for how could I
help that piker Freddy and his cheap friends and the rest, and believe
you me there are many perfect ladies in pictures and on the stage, only
the public dont often recognize them because they are swamped with a
bunch of roughnecks which all are popularly supposed to be.

It was a big relief when the Captain got up and went away about nine,
and left us to a endurance contest as to which could sit up the longest
in that refreshing atmosphere of cigarette smoke and drinks and
ten-dollar perfume with the sad sea waves beating vainly outside the
carefully glass enclosed verandah until one o'clock--when I personally
went to bed leaving them to their fate.

I give the telephone operator a terrible shock by leaving a call for
seven thirty, and when it come I put on my riding suit which I had left
from a dance called "The Call to Hounds" which Jim and me done at the
Palace just before he enlisted, and went out into the keen morning air.
And it was some air! Then I commenced to look around for horses but had
great difficulty in finding the same, for it seems the Atlantic City
horses dont get up any earlier than most of the visitors, and believe
you me I and a few coons which were picking up scraps and so forth off
the boardwalk, was the only birds in sight at that hour. Well anyways I
walked along breathing in that sweet air at about fifty cents per breath
by the hotel rates, but feeling pretty good in spite of it, when I
actually found a place where the horses was up--or mabe they had been
all night. I got a horse which looked considerable like a moth-eaten
property one but could go pretty good and commenced to ride gently along
what seemed to be my private ocean, when all of a sudden who would I
see but the young Captain riding very good indeed. He come up to me on
high and then tried to put on the brakes when he seen who it was, but
the horse had its mind on something else and wouldnt, so he got by me
but not without a "Good morning!" Which I thought fairly safe to smile
at seeing we was so rapidly going in opposite directions. But it seems
he must of spoke roughly to his steed for he come up behind me and spoke
with just that grand refined Big-Time drawing-room act accent I knew by
his little moustache he would have.

"I say! What luck!" he says. "You are Miss Marie LaTour, are you not?"

Was I sore? I was. Any lady would be and of course after the company he
seen me in at the hotel what could I expect but to be picked up? But
more particularly as he had my name and it with a good reputation, and
no one can say different with truth, I simply had to show him where he
got off.

"Sir!" I says, just like a play. "Sir! I do not know you. Please beat it
at once!"

"I know, but really!" he begged, flashing that white smile. "I'm not
trying to be impertenant--let me explain...."

"Explain nothing!" I says very haughty. "I wont listen."

"But I'm not doing what you think!" he cries out. "Please wait until you
hear...."

"I've heard that 'please listen' stuff before," I says. "Good-by!"

And then I done the bravest act of my life, not being really acquainted
with horses, especially Atlantic City ones. I give the horse a lash and
off we went, I trying hard to give the impression of a good rider and
not looking back because I dasn't with that animal headed for the steel
pier full clip. But I heard the Captain's remarks, just the same.

"By jove, I'll _make_ you listen to me--just for that!" he says. And I
heard no more, for the bird which keeps the horses come out and rescued
me just before we hit the pier and I got off and started for the hotel,
boiling with rage. Me treated like a common chorus girl! Me, once the
best known parlor dancing act in the world, and now even more so on the
motion picture screen and a lady or dead! I wouldnt of looked at that
guy again on a bet--I made up my mind right then and there to show him
his mistake and that if my accent wasnt as good as his my morals was
better and no attempt on his part could get me to speak to him again.

Well in this state of mind I run into Ma, just before we reached the
hotel which she was hurrying to just ahead of me, and believe you me I
was sure surprised because I never knew her out so early although she
generally is up by seven, but with her curlpapers still on and a kimona
and thats different from coming out in public.

"I've been taking my exercise!" she says before I could speak. "And I'm
glad to see you do the same," she says.

And I certainly had to hand it to her strength of mind because after
being out so early and all she eat was only tea and dry toast for
breakfast.

After which we stopped by the office and just before we got there I see
the Captain give a note to the clerk and walk away. When we asked for
mail that note was the first thing the clerk handed me.

"Captain Raymond just left this for you Miss LaTour," he says.

I didnt even open it.

"Kindly return it," I says, very dignified, giving it back, and looked
over my other mail. But no letter from my husband, which is always the
way on a day a woman most needs one. So I went upstairs very low in my
mind and sort of glad that even if Jim couldn't think to write there was
others would be glad enough to if they was let. And then I went and got
Maison out of bed which she was taking her breakfast in.

"You come down here for your health and look what you do to it!" I says,
and made her go for a boardwalk which she held out for about half a hour
and no wonder with the heels she wears, and then stopped me with a gasp.

"Dearie, you surely must be the one that put the hell in health," she
says, "For heavens sakes leave us sit down."

Well we did, and in about five minutes along comes Mr. Freddy with a
friend, Mr. Sternberg, and it was remarkable how quick Maison recovered
her strength, with the result that we spent a quiet little morning and
about fifty dollars of Mr. Sternberg's money on shooting-galleries and
throwing rings and carousels and a Japanese auction and other restful
seaside sports, and ended at a quiet little café simply done in paper
roses and rubber palm trees where the drinks was only seventy-five
cents per each and I had to sit and watch them again, Ma having gone
off to exercise and not appearing to want me along with her.

Well anyways I was sort of relieved over not having to eat lunch with
Captain Raymond looking on back at the hotel, and was just thinking of
it when who would come into that café but the Captain himself, alone
except for another officer, a Lieutenant with his arm in a sling and
caught sight of me the very minute he sat down.

Well of course I didnt look over at him but I couldnt help noticing he
called a waiter and wrote a note on a piece of paper and that the waiter
brought it over to me.

And Maison seen it too, and her gentleman friends the same, and did they
kid me? They did! But I kept the bird which had brought the note over
while I tore it in two without reading it and sent it back again that
way and believe you me that got over, because I could see Captain
Raymond turn red all the way across the noisy room.

Well I thought that had settled it and spent a mournful if busy
afternoon in another café where there was lots of smoke and a Jazz band
and dancing and Maison was real happy because she had finally got Mr.
Freddy to spend a nickle and a half. But I was lower than ever in my
mind thinking how much more often some soldiers seemed able to write
than others.

Well, after we had taken a nice walk in the fresh air nearly three
blocks long, I got back to the hotel to find that Goldringer was giving
a party that night beginning with dinner and of course Ma and me was
booked for it and no escape because of my contract with him. And it was
some party and at twelve o'clock that night I dragged my weary bones
down the corridor after the second day of my rest, feeling that I would
pass out any minute. A person certainly does need their strength to
enjoy a American health resort.

The next morning I didn't even attempt to get up for any wild west
exhibit. I hadn't the pep for one thing and the Captain was another
reason of course. And when I finally come down-stairs and see Ma eat
practically nothing, I let her set off right away after breakfast
without me for exercise was nothing in my life. I strolled around the
lobby waiting for Maison Rosabelle according to her request and there I
seen a big poster which I had noticed before, the one about the
entertainment for the benefit of blind soldiers which the Captain had
been sitting under the first time I--he saw me, and I went over and read
it and the entertainment was to come off that very night. And while I
was reading it the second time the way a person does in a hotel lobby,
up comes Captain Raymond and actually speaks right there where a sceene
would of proved me no lady.

"Please, Miss LaTour!" he says. "It's so _important._"

"Kindly do not force me to call for assistance," I says low and quiet.
"You are a stranger to me."

"But you dont understand!" he says, flushing up red the attractive way
he had for all he was so fresh.

"Indeed I do," I says. "I havent been in the theatrical world since
three generations for nothing," I says. "Kindly go _away!_"

"If you would only listen for five minutes, I'd prove how mistaken you
are!" he says. "Won't you give me a chance?"

"No!" I says.

"By Heavens, I'll make you!" he says, half laughing. "I've never seen
anything so absurd! Why my dear lady...."

Right then up comes Maison in a simple little Xmas tree of a dress in
green and gold and red, and I broke away and took her arm, and hurried
her out through the front door, leaving the Captain staring after us and
rather against Maison's will.

"Why didn't you introduce me, dearie?" she says. "I kind a thought you'd
pick up that bird!"

"I didn't pick him up. I turned him down!" I snapped. But Maison kidded
me the whole three hours while we was in the beauty-parlours getting
waived and manicured.


IV

Then we had a nice wholesome little lunch lasting only three hours and
comparatively quiet and by ourselves, seeing there was only Goldringer
and Ruby Roselle and Maison and Freddy and O'Flarety, our leading
juvenile who had turned up, and Mr. Sternberger and a friend of Ma's
which used to be in the circus with her, and Ma and myself. And all the
way through I watched Ma kind of anxiously, for she only toyed with a
little salad and passed up everything else. I was by this time really
scared she would be haggard or something, but she looked fine, and not
a word of complaint out of her, only toward four o'clock she got kind of
restless, and so did I, so we excused ourselves, and walked to the door
together.

"You needn't come along with me, Mary Gilligan," she says. "I want to
walk real fast."

I looked at her sort of surprised at that, but at the time the queerness
didn't really sink in. And I was so wore out I was actually glad to let
her go alone and personally, myself, I took one of those overgrown
baby-carriages or rolling chairs which I thought a healthy young person
like myself would never come to, and sank into it like the poor weary
soul I was, and let the coon tuck me in like a six-months-old, and off
we went as fast as a snail.

Well it was pleasanter than I had thought it would be and I got kind of
drowsy and dreamy and somehow I couldnt help but think of Captain
Raymond and how refined and nice he was and how my fame and beauty had
captured him to the extent that it had almost made him forget to act
like a gentleman, and how he persisted like a regular story book hero.
And I wondered if he would shoot himself on my account, and that threw a
awful scare into me, for handsome women have a terrible responsibility
in the way they treat men. And I wondered was I really doing the right
thing, taking such a risk by treating him so sever and not speaking and
here he was in the service of his country and all and Gawd knows I might
be wrecking his whole life from then on. And furthermore I thought how
hard it is to be refined and what a lot a person has to sacrifice to it,
and that the roughnecks of this world seem to have most of the fun. And
that it was certainly hard to be dignified but that my whole career was
built on my refinement no less than my great talent, and I must respect
my own position. Ah well, uneasy lies the tooth that wears a crown as
the poet says, or something!

And by this time the coon had got tired pushing me and turning my face
sea-ward had gone to take a rest and I took one too and actually fell
asleep.

When I woke up I was moving again, going slow in the direction of the
Inlet, and I felt quite refreshed and happy, and the whole of Atlantic
City appeared to feel the same, for everybody I passed smiled and seemed
to be enjoying theirselves. And they all seemed to smile at me in such a
sweet, friendly way it made my heart feel awful good. I was even quite
surprised because although of course I am used to being recognized every
place I go, but still, more people than ever was doing it this
afternoon. I begun to think I must be looking pretty good and that my
hat, about which I had had a few doubts, was a big success after all. It
really was a sort of triumphal progress as the saying is, and I had half
a mind to turn around when we passed the last pier; but the ocean looked
so beautiful and pink in the sunset and going the other way it would of
been in my eyes, so I just let myself be rolled on and on until we was
almost to the Inlet and not a soul in sight. Then the chair stopped and
was turned against the rail.

"Now I've got you at last!" said a unexpected voice, and around from the
back came, not the coon, but Captain Raymond.

"Where did you come from?" I asked, hardly able to speak.

"I have had the honor of pushing you into this secluded corner of--of
the ocean!" he said, his blue eyes twinkling.

"But how--how . . ." I sputtered.

"I bought off the colored man while you were sleeping," he said. "And
have been your humble servant for almost an hour!"

Can you beat it? You cant!

"Well of all the nerve," I began, remembering how people had smiled, and
no wonder!

"What are you going to do about it?" he asked.

"Walk home this minute!" I says, struggling with the rugs. But they had
a will of their own and it was on his side and I just couldnt seem to
get free of them.

"Oh I say, don't be so absurd!" he says smilingly.

"I'm not!" I says.

"Oh but you are!" he insisted. "Just sit still and let me show you
something!"

Well, there was nothing for me but to give in or look a utter fool, and
he _was_ so attractive! And, well anyways, I waited and he brought out a
letter from his overcoat pocket and it was the very one he had wrote me
first and I had returned it to the hotel clerk.

"Please just open it!" he begged, and I did and nearly fainted because
inside was a letter in Jim's handwriting addressed to me and introducing
Captain Charles Raymond who was with him in France, only being gassed
was now home on leave and would I show him every courtesy as he had
been good to my ever loving husband, Jim!

"And really and truly I wouldn't have been so persistant, Miss LaTour,"
Captain Raymond was saying as I looked up. "I had intended using it when
I got to New York of course. But when they put me in charge of this
entertainment for the benefit of the blind, and I discovered you were
here, I was simply determined to get you to take part in it. Couldn't
you do us just one little dance? It would be such a drawing-card, your
name would. That was all I wanted, really!"

Believe you me I didn't know what to think or how I felt. Did I feel
flat? I did! Did I feel relieved? I did!! So it wasnt a mash at all, and
for a moment I felt a lonelier war-widow than ever. Then I remembered
how Jim said in the note to be nice to this bird, and I could see, now
that I looked at him good, that he was the sort which it is perfectly
safe to be nice to. Not that he didnt admire me, either, but that he was
just as refined as me and more so and was Jim's pal beside. So I says
yes, of course I would dance, and we talked and talked and the sun went
down, and got to be real friends and was it good to hear about Jim,
first hand? IT WAS! And after a while we commenced to walk back toward
the hotel, pushing the chair, and the lights was all lit along the walk
like Fairyland, and also in the shops so they was more like show-cases
than ever. And then I got the second shock of the afternoon because at
ten past six with dinner at seven, there was Ma in the Ocean Lunch
eating griddle-cakes, fish-balls, Salsbury steake and coffee, with a
little strained honey and apple-pie on the side! No wonder she could
diet so good! And I take it to my credit that, since she did not notice
me, I never let on that I seen her, not then nor afterward at dinner
when she refused everything but two dill pickles!

But it wasn't until afterward when I was in the star dressing-room at
the Apollo Theatre, putting on my make-up for the benefit that the real
blow came. I was just about ready to go on when in rushed Goldringer,
all breathless with a cablegram in his hand.

"Its all right about Olivette Twist!" he puffed at me. "We'll begin
making that fillum Tuesday!" and he threw the message down on my
dressing table. It was signed by our London manager and it read:--

"Present location of Charles Dickens uncertain but material is
uncopyrighted, shoot."

And so immediately after the show, myself and Ma went back to New York
to get a twenty-four hour rest before commencing work again.



V

NOW IS THE TIME


I

BELIEVE you me, the world to-day is just about as settled as a green
passenger on a trip to Bermuda. There is that same awful feeling of not
knowing is something going to happen or not--do you get me? You do! And
it can't help but strike even a mere womanly woman and lady like I, that
unless the captain and officers keep a firm hand on the crew until we
get a little ballast in the hold, we are likely to get in Dutch. Not
meaning the Germans necessarily, but the Russians, or something just as
bad. And perhaps it may seem strange for me to know about them
nautchical terms, but anybody which has once been to Bermuda learns what
ballast is on account of their not having hardly any on them boats
because of the water not being deep enough, and believe you me, nothing
I had to do in the fillum we made after what was left of us arrived
there, and it was some fillum at that--$1000. for bathing costumes alone
and me as "The Sea King's Conquest" in silver scales, although hardly
knowing how to swim--was a patch on the treatment which that unballasted
boat handed me on the trip down.

Well anyways, even when sitting in the security of my flat on the Drive,
which Gawd knows it aught to be secure what with the salary I get and
moving-pictures will be the last thing the common people will give
up;--even with this security and the handsomest furniture any
installment house could provide, and every other equipment which is
necessary to one so prominent in my line as myself, still even in the
scarcity of the home, as the poet says, I am conscious that the world
is, or could quite easily be, on the blink.

And ain't it the truth? Even the simplest soul, buried in the wilds of
Broadway and wholly absorbed in their own small life must feel the
unrest. No use kidding ourselves about it. It's time for all good
Americans to quit fighting among theirselves and come to the aid of the
country. Regardless of race, creed or color, as the free hospital says,
and Gawd knows the hospital will be where they'll land if they don't.
Do you get me? Probably not. What I mean is, it's time we quit talking
and _did_ something. What? I dunno, quite, but it was this general line
of thought, which come to me while listening to the director give me my
instructions for the ball-room scene in "The Dove of Peace," where I
catch the Russian Ambassador giving the nitro-glycerine or some other
patent face-cleanser to the fake Senator, caused me to reform the White
Kittens. That and Ma's peculiar behavior, plus the new cook.

You see it come over me all of a sudden that we ladies have now a vote
and so forth, which unquestionably makes us more or less citizens the
same as the men, and if the country went bluey, why wouldn't it be our
fault as well? And I come to this partially through the sense of unrest
and having eat something that didn't settle good and Ma's behavior. All
coming at once they kind of got together and exploded into my idea.

Well anyways, I had just come to a place in my personal life where I
seen a little peace and quiet ahead and nothing to do but go up in an
aeroplane for the second reel of "The Dove." The war was over without
Jim being killed in it and a new chance offered by a big picture
contract the minute his uniform should be off him; I was going strong
with nothing but Broadway releases and a salary which made Morgan
jealous; my spring clothes hadn't a failure among them and only one of
my hats was too tight in the head. The fool dogs was both healthy, the
cook had stayed a month; the car had been in order for over three weeks,
and I had successfully nursed Ma through the flu. And I thought fat
could not harm me, as the poet says, for I had dieted to-day. When all
of a sudden Ma, who had hardly got over the Influenza, come down with
Bolshevism.

Now the trouble with these new diseases is that the doctors don't seem
to know anything about them nor what makes them catching. At least that
is the line of talk they pull, but I got a hunch myself, that if the flu
had been quarantined right in the first place it could of been stopped.
Do you get me? You do! And I will say one more word in favor of
Influenza. You was obliged to report it, if only to the Board of Health.
But Bolshevism seems to be like a cold in the head. If you catch it,
that evidently is nobody's business but your own; if you spread it--the
same. Then again folks are kind of proud of having had the flu. It makes
conversation and everything, and one which has escaped feels a little
mortified like admitting they had never seen Charlie Chaplin. Indeed,
people certainly do get a lot of pleasure out of illness and etc. And so
long as it is under control, all right, leave them enjoy theirselves.
They had to suffer first and mabe a little talk is coming to them.

But with this Bolshevism it's the other way around. The talk comes
first, but believe you me, the suffering will come afterwards. And if
they could only be made to realise this ere too late, a whole lot of
patients would be cured before they got it. A ounce of Americanism is
worth a pound of red propaganda, as the poet says, or would of had he
written to-day.

Things started with Ma as per usual upsetting the cook which has come to
be a habit with her, for cooking is to Ma what his art is to
Caruso--naught but death could tear her from it permanent. And while I
give her credit for trying in every way to be an idle rich, the kitchen
might as well be furnished with magnets and she a nail for all she can
keep out of it with the natural result that keeping out of it is the
best thing the cooks we hire do. And I can't say with any truth that I
have made as much effort to break her of that as of some other lack of
refinements, such as remembering that toothpicks ain't a public utility
and never to say "excuse my back," or keep her knife and fork for the
next course at the Ritz. Because believe you me, Ma is some cook and a
real authograph dinner by her is something to bring tears of sweet
memory to the eyes of the older generation and leave us young things in
sympathetic wonder about them dear dead days when first class
home-cooking was a custom, not a curiosity. And so while the material
side of life don't interest me much, what with my work and etc. to take
my mind off it, still even a artist must eat or Gawd knows where the
strength to act in the "Dove of Peace" or any other six-reeler would
come from if I didn't, and Ma's is that simple nourishing kind, but with
quality, the same as the sort of dresses I wear--made out of two dollars
worth of material and a thousand dollar idea.

Well anyways, our latest cook which had a husband in the service and had
took up her work again so's to release him for the front at Camp Mills,
for he got no further, heard he was coming back home, having got his
discharge and it upset her so but whether from joy or rage, I don't know
which, that there was nothing to eat in the kitchen but a little liquor
she had left at seven-thirty, when we went in to see what was the cause
of delay, and me with Maison Rosabelle and a friend to dinner. So Ma
woke her up out of her emotions which she claimed had overcome her, and
give her a honorable discharge of her own and then turned up the ends of
her sleeves, and only a little hampered by the narrow skirt to the green
satin evening gown she had on her, give us a meal as per above
described. And no one would of cared how long it was before the
intelligence office--I mean domestic, not U.S. Army--sent us a cook but
that in trying to save her dress Ma got hot grease on her right hand and
that changed the situation because we had to call up next day and take
anything they had--and they sent us up a German woman.

Well, believe you me, that was a shock because I had an idea that all
the Germans in the country was either interned or incognito, but this
one wasn't even disguised, which isn't so remarkable on account of her
being pretty near as big as Ma and a voice on her like a fog-horn with
a strong accent on the fog. I never in my life see so many bags and
bundles and ecteras as that female had with her, for she was undoubtedly
one, although she had a sort of moustache beside the voice. But what she
had in voice she certainly lacked in words. When Ma set out to ask her
the usual questions which everybody does, although their heart is
trembling with fear, she won't take the job, this lady Hun didn't
divulge no more information about herself than we asked. She was as
stingy with her language as if it had been hard liquor. Ma asked her to
come in, and she did, and sat without being asked upon one of the gold
chairs in the parlor which I certainly never expected it would survive
the test, they being made for parlor rather than sitting room.

Well anyways, it's a fact she certainly was a mountain and if she were a
fair specimen, all this about the Germans starving to death is the bunk.
Only her being over here may of made a difference. Well, after she had
set down a bundle done up in black oil-cloth, a cute little hand-bag
about a yard long made out of somebody's old stair-carpet, a shoe-box
with a heel of bread sticking out at one end, an umbrella which looked
like a sea-side one, a pot of white hyacinths in full bloom and a
net-bag full of little odds and ends, she still had an old black
pocket-book and a big bulky bundle done up in a shawl lying idly in her
lap. After I had taken all this in, I gave her personally the once-over
and was surprised to see she wasn't so old as her figure, or anything
like it. For by the size of her she might of been the Pyramids, but her
face was quite young and if she had been a boy I would of said the
moustache was the first cherished down.

"What's your name, dearie?" says Ma, which I simply can't learn her not
to be familiar with servants.

"Anna," says the lump.

"And where do you come from?" says Ma, giving a poor imitation of a
detective.

"Old Country," says Anna. Well, Ma and me at once exchanged glances,
putting name and place together.

"German?" says Ma. "Of course!"

"Swedish," says Anna, more lumpishly than ever.

And just at that moment the air was filled with a big laugh that none of
us there had give voice to. It was _some_ shock, that laugh, and Ma and
me looked around expecting to see who had come into the room, but it
was nobody. Anna was the only one who didn't seem disturbed. She just
went on sitting.

"Who was that?" says Ma.

"It must of been outside," I says, for it was warm and we had the
windows open so's to let in the gasoline and railroad smoke and a little
fresh air.

"I guess so," says Ma. Then she went back to her third-degree.

"So you're Swedish!" says Ma. "Can you cook?"

"Good!" says Anna. "Svell cook!"

"Well, dearie!" says Ma, "why was it you left your last place?"

"Too hot!" says Anna. And again me and Ma exchanged glances.

"Are you a good American?" says Ma.

"Good American-Swedish," says Anna. And immediately that awful laugh was
repeated. This time it was in the room, no doubt about it. And yet no
one was there outside ourselfs.

"My Gawd!" says Ma. "What was it?"

"Somebody is hid some place!" I says. "And I'd like to know who is it
with the cheap sense of humor?"

"It bane Frits," says Anna. "Na, na, Frits!"

"But where on earth . . ." I was commencing, when I noticed Anna was
unwinding the shawl off the package in her lap. And then in another
moment we seen Frits for our own selves, for there he was, a big
moth-eaten parrot, interned in a cage, making wicked eyes at us and
giving us the ha-ha like the true Hun he was!

"Frits and me, we stay!" announced Anna comfortably. "We stay!"

"But look here," says I, "we didn't start out to hire any parrots."

"Why Mary Gilligan!" says Ma, and I could see she was scared that if
Frits went Anna would certainly go, too. "Why Mary Gilligan, I thought
you was fond of dumb animals!" she says.

"And so I am," I says. "The dumber the better. But this one is evidently
far from it! How am I going to figure out my income tax with this bird
hanging around?"

"Hang in den Kitchen!" says Anna firmly, and at that we gave in, because
cooks is cooks, and what's a bird more or less after all? Still I didn't
like him on account of suspecting he wasn't a neutral any more than
Anna was for all she claimed to be a Swede. I had read a piece in the
paper about where the Germans was pretending to be Swede or Spanish or
anything they could get away with so's to remain free to spread
Bolshevism and influenza and bombs and send up the price of dry and
fancy goods and put through the Prohibition amendment and all them other
gentle little activities for which they are so well and justly known.

But I thought knowledge is power as the guy which wrote the copy-book
says, and I had the drop on Anna through being on to her disguise and
beside which I could see Ma was going to be miserable if she had to eat
out while her hand was in the sling, and so we took the viper to our
bosom, or in other words, we hired her, and anyways, she had already
accepted the job and it would of been a lot of trouble to get her out by
force. Which, believe you me, a person seldom has to do with servants
now-a-days, and confirmed me about her being German because naturally
people don't hire them, if acknowledging to themselves that they _are_
Germans any more than they would now deliberately import sauerkraut or
any other German industry. Do you get me? You'd better!

But in this case there was a reasonable doubt together with a real
necessity, although from what come of it, I feel, looking backwards, it
would of been better to eat out and suffer than to of compromised with
our patriotic consciences like we done at that time. Because there is
_no_ reasonable doubt but that Anna's coming into the house was greatly
responsible for Ma's catching Bolshevism.


II

NOT that she caught it off Anna directly, because for once we had a cook
which couldn't talk or understand American and so there was no use in
Ma's hanging around the kitchen worrying the life out of her. And so the
very first morning Anna was on the premises, Ma commenced hanging around
and worrying the life out of me.

It happened we was waiting for the aeroplane I was to go up in to arrive
at the studio, and so for once having my morning for myself, I thought I
would just dash off my income tax return, and be done with it.

But it seems that this is one of the things which is easier said than
done, the same as signing the peace-treaty, and believe you me, the last
ain't got a thing on the former and I don't know did Pres. Wilson make
out his own income tax return or not. But if he did and the collector of
Internal Revenue left him get by with it as he must of or why would the
Pres. be in Paris, which is out of the country, well anyways, if the
Pres. did it alone, believe you me, he will get away with the treaty all
right, and probably even write in this here Leg of Nations under table
13, page 1, of return and instructions page 2 under K (b) without having
to ask anybody how to do it, he having undoubtedly shown the power to
think.

Well anyways, I had taken all the poker-chips, silk-sale samples, old
theatre programs and etc., out of my desk, found my fountain pen and a
bottle of ink, and was turning that cute little literacy test around and
over to see where would I commence and had got no further than the
realization that most of my brains is in my feet instead of behind my
face, when Ma comes in and commences worrying me because she could not
cook nor yet crochet like the lillies of the field, or whatever that
well-known idle flower was. I tried to listen at least as politely as
is ever required of a daughter to her mother, but when I was trying to
figure out my answer to question No. 5 and getting real mad over its
personalness, I couldn't stand to hear her complain over not being able
to crochet them terrible mats she makes which are not fit for anything
except Xmas presents, anyways.

"The trouble with you, Ma," I snapped at last, "is that you aught to get
a live-wire outside interest. You're getting out of date. Ladies don't
crochet no more and even knitting has been dished by the armistice. You
never read a newspaper or a book. You should go in for something snappy
and up to the moment like literature or jobs for soldiers, or business,
or something."

This got Ma's goat right off, like I hoped it would.

"Oh, so I'm on the shelf, am I?" she says, "well, leave me tell you Mary
Gilligan, if it wasn't for us back numbers you new numbers wouldn't even
_be_ here, don't forget that! And after having been the first American
lady to do the double backward leap on the two center trapeses, I can
hardly be called a dead one, even if a little heavier than I was. And
from that time on I have never ceased to be forward."

"You'd have to show me," I says, grimly.

"All right, I will," she says.

And believe you me, she did. She went and got on her dolman and her
spring hat and left me in wrath and the midst of that income tax with
that "I'll never come back" air so familiar to all well-regulated
families.

Well, as I sat there struggling over where to put the × and = marks, and
how much exemption could I get away with and still be on speaking terms
with myself, and wondering whether the two fool dogs was dependents or
not--which they aught to be, seeing how helpless they are and a big
expense and Gawd knows I keep them only for appearances and they aught
to come under the head of professional expenditures, because no
well-known actress but has them to help out the scenery--well anyways, I
was deep in this highly high-brow occupation in the comparatively
perfect silence of my exclusive flat where ordinarily we don't hear a
thing but the neighbors' pianola and the dumb-waiter and the auto horns
on the drive and the train just beyond--well, this comparatively for
New York, perfect silence was broke by an awful yell in the apartment
itself.

"Anarchy!" a terrible voice hollered. And then again "Anarchy! Anarchy!"

Believe you me, my blood turned to lemon soda for a moment and the boys
in the trenches never had worse crawling down the back than me at that
minute, coming as it did right on top of me, writing in opposite to B.
income from salaries--you know--$60,000.00. The silence which followed
was even worse. And I sat there sort of frozen while expecting a bomb
would go off any minute, and Gawd knows sixty thousand is a lot of
money, but any one which investigated the true facts could quickly see
that I earn every cent of it and anyways brains has a right to the
bigger share, not to mention ability, and if the way I worked myself up
from the lower classes ain't proof of what can be done single-handed in
America, I don't know what is, and anybody which works as hard and lives
as decent as I done can do the same, not that I want to hand myself
anything extra, only speaking personally, I am in a position to know.

But just the same I wasn't reasoning at the minute and the justice, as
you might say, of my case didn't occur to me until later. As I sat there
trying to remember to think, the voice yells it again, only this time
with additions.

"Anarchy! Love Anarchy! Pretzel!"

And then I realised it was that parrot belonging to the new cook.

Can you imagine my feelings on top of my suspicions of her? You can! I
got up and went into the kitchen to see if a bomb was may be being
prepared for our dinner, but not at all. The kitchen was scrubbed to the
last tile, something that smelled simply grand was baking, the white
hyacinths was in the sun on the window-sill, and Anna was humming under
her breath while she rolled out biscuit-dough. The radical parrot was
shut up, but only as to mouth, he being loose and walking about the top
of the clothes-wringer, making himself very much at home, and giving me
_some_ evil look as I come in.

"Aren't you afraid he'll get away?" I says.

"Huh?" says Anna, stopping rolling, and blinking at me.

"Lose him--parrot----!" I says, pointing to him and flapping my arms
like wings.

"Frits?" she said. "Na--Frits like liberty!"

And that was all I could get out of her. I stuck around for a few
minutes more, until Anna commenced to give me the cook's-eye, that bird
backing her up and sneering at me while dancing slowly on the wringer,
but not moving a step. So I got out and back to the parlor but not to my
work which Gawd knows I had to take it over to the bank and leave them
do it for me after all--but sat down instead to consider them two
suspicious birds in the back part of the flat. I personally myself was
convinced that there was something very wrong about Anna. But so far she
had said nothing under the espionage law exactly and I didn't know could
you arrest a bird for too much liberty of speech even though it loved
anarchy, and liberty and everything and was undoubtedly capable of
spreading propaganda what with the voice it had.

Well anyways, as I was holding my marcelle wave with both hands and
racking what little was underneath it over the situation, I heard the
key in the lock and in come Ma all flushed and cheerful and pleased with
herself and handed me another jolt.

"I had a real sweet, pleasant morning," she says, taking off her gloves
and hat and wiping her face with one of them big handkerchiefs like she
used to carry in the circus and will not give up. "A real nice time,"
she says, egging me on to question her.

"Where have you been?" I says, like she wanted me to.

"Oh, just to a little Bolsheviki meeting," she says, casual. And picking
up her things she started for her room.

"Hold on, Ma!" I says, having managed to get my breath before she
reached the door. "Say that again, will you?"

She turned and come back at that, still keeping up the careless stuff.

"Certainly," she says, "Bolsheviki meeting. Are you interested in this
up-to-date stuff?"

"Interested!" I says. "Of course I am. I'm against it. Why Ma Gilligan!"
I says. "Do you know what Bolshevism _is?"_

"Do you?" says Ma, sweetly.

"No!" says I. "And neither do they. But I am sure it's the bunk, and I
feel it's wrong, and I am ashamed of you going!"

"How old-fashioned of you, dearie," says Ma. "Have you ever heard a
speaker or been to a meeting?"

"I don't need to!" I says short, being kind of at a loss.

"Well, I have!" says Ma, triumphant.

"Where was it at?" I demanded.

"Down to the circus," says Ma. "In the Bear-wrestler's dressing room. I
went to call on some of the folks and get the news and Madame Jones, the
new automobile act--very distinguished lady--got me to it. A most
exclusive affair, with only the highest priced acts invited!"

"And who spoke?" I says.

"Kiskoff, the bear-wrestler," says Ma. "It certainly was interesting."

"What did he say?" I says, it getting harder and harder to remember I
was a lady and she my only mother. "What did he say?"

"I dunno!" says Ma.

"You don't know!" I fairly yells. "And why don't you know?"

"Because he only talks Russian!" says Ma, and walked out, leaving me
flat.

Well, believe you me, I was that upset I scarcely took any notice of my
lunch, although it was a real nice meal, commencing with some juicy kind
of fish and eggs and ending up with pancakes rolled up and filled with
cream curds and powdered sugar.

Ma took to these eats immensely, and she and Anna exchanged a couple of
smiles, which made me feel like the only living American. And when later
in the day Ma told me she thought she'd join the Bolshevists if she
didn't have to be immersed, and that this Kiskoff's life was in danger
for his beliefs just like the early Romans and nobody knew where he
lived, but was a man of mystery, I couldn't stand it another moment, but
beat it for a long walk by myself because my nerves was sure on edge and
that aeroplane stunt facing me next week.

But the walk wasn't altogether pleasant, at least not at the start or at
the finish, because when I come out of our palatial near-marble front
stoop, there was a guy standing which might just as well of had on the
brass-buttons and all because you could tell at once by the disguise
that he was a plain-clothes cop. Not that I am so familiar with them,
but their clothes is generally so plain any one could tell them. Do you
get me? You do!

Well anyways, this bird was standing opposite our door, and at the
second glance I had him spotted or nearly so, and when I come back from
walking fast and wishing to Gawd Jim was back to advise me and occupying
our flat instead of Germany, the fly-cop was still there by which I
became certain he was one; the more so as I watched him from a window
once I was in, and the way he kept camouflaging himself as a casual
passer-by, ended my doubts.

Well, was that some situation? It was! Here was myself, a good American
though but an ignorant woman, surrounded by all the terrible and
disturbing elements of the day; with everything which aught to be kept
out of every U. S. A. home creeping into mine, and all so sudden that I
hadn't got my breath yet much less any action. In fact, I was sort of
dizzy with what was happening, and my head didn't quiet down any when,
after dinner that night, I heard deep voices out in back.

"Anna has company!" says Ma in explanation. "Two of them, and I think
they are talking Russian. At any rate one has a beard almost as handsome
as Mr. Kiskoff's."

This got my angora, and while no lady would ever spy on her cook, this
was surely a exception and so I took a quiet peek in through the pantry
slide and there was Anna and two big he-men all talking at once. The
window was open a little ways from the top and on it was Frits, also
talking in Russian or something, and no earthly reason why he couldn't
take his liberty and go right out if he had really wanted it. And still
another jolt was handed me when I realised one of the men was our very
own ice-man!

Believe you me, when I went to bed that night in my grey French enameled
Empire style I was wore out with the series of jolts which the day has
handed me. But it is not my custom to sit back and talk things over too
long. I have ever noticed that the person which talks too much seldom
does a whole lot, and that a quick decision if wrong, at least learns
you something, and you can start again on the right track. And no later
than the next day after a funny, though good breakfast, of coffee and
new bread with cinnamon and sugar baked into it and herrings in cream, I
commenced to act.

"Ma, are you going to keep up this Bolshevist bull?" I says.

"I am!" she says. "You told me to do something modern and I'm doing the
very modernest thing there is!"

"You are going to be wrong on that by this P. M.," I says, "or to-morrow
at latest," I says, "because there is or aught to be something moderner,
and that is United Americanism!" I says. "And since the only way to
fight fire is with it, I am going to start a rival organization and
start it quick!" I says, "and I'm going to do it on a sounder basis than
your people ever dreamed of because we'll all talk English so's we'll
each of us know what the organization is about!"

"Why Marie La Tour!" says Ma, which it's a fact she only calls me that
when she's sore at me. "Why, Marie La Tour, what is your organization
going to do?"

"I don't know yet beyond one thing," I says, "we are going to _get
together_ and keep together!"

And so, without waiting for a come-back or any embarrassing questions, I
hustled into a simple little grey satin Trotteur costume which is French
for pony-clothes and left that homefull of heavy-weight traitors where a
radical parrot yelled "Anarchy" from morning till night, and even the
steam radiators had commenced to smell like dynimite. And having shut
the door after me with quite some explosion myself, I had the limousine
headed to the White Kittens Annual Ball Assn., which I was due at it on
account of all the most prominent ladies in picture and theatrical
circles being on the committee and I naturally being indespensible if
only for the value of my name. So I started off but not before I noticed
that the same plain-clothes John was again perched opposite my front
door.


III

ALL the way to the Palatial Hotel which the meeting is always held in
the grand ballroom of, I kept getting more and more worked up. Things
had certainly gone too far when Bolshevism had spread from the parlor to
the kitchen or visa-versa, I didn't know which, and my own Ma being
undoubtedly watched by the more or less Secret Service, all because of
her having taken a fancy to them whiskers of this Kiskoff cockoo, which
is the only explanation I could make of it, and after being a widow
twenty years she aught to of been ashamed of herself. Still, it was a
better explanation for her to of lost her head than her patriotism, and
I tried to think this the case. And my own position was something to
bring tears to a glass eye, what with my well-known war-work and a
perfectly good husband still in the service. And I had made a threat to
take action, and had no idea what it would be, only that now I certainly
had to deliver the goods.

Well anyways, in despair and the limousine, I finally arrived at the
Palatial and there in the lobby was several other White Kittens which
were also late, so we give each other's clothes the once-over and asked
after our healths and etc., and then hurried up in the elevator to where
the meeting had already commenced.

Believe you me, my mind stuck to that meeting about as good as a W.S.S.
which has been in your purse a month does when you find your card. The
room was as full as could be with the biggest crowd I ever knew to turn
out for it. But somehow while I am generally pretty well interested in
any crowd, this time nothing seemed to register except my own thoughts.
Even the chairlady couldn't hold my attention partially because she was
Ruby Roselle, and what they wanted to elect that woman for I don't know
because her head is certainly not the part of her which earned her
theatrical reputation and a handsome back is no disgrace and if that
and a handful of costume is art far be it from me to say anything: but
it is neither refinement nor does it make a good executor for a live
organization like the Kittens. And what is more, any woman which had her
nose changed from Jewish to Greek right in the middle of a big feature
fillum can't run any society to suit me, not to mention the fact that as
I sat there watching her talk I come slowly to realize that she had
several jewels and a couple of friends which was found to be pro-Germans
and been interned, although nothing was ever proved onto Ruby herself.

Still, coming on top of what I had been going through the last couple of
days, I took a sudden suspicion of her being lady-chairman to one of
America's oldest organizations of the female gender, it having been
formed 'way back in 1911. And what is furthermore, as I sat there hating
her with her synthetic Christian nose and her genuine Jewish diamonds,
the big idea come at last--a way to at once get something started before
she did, because how did I know but she'd have the orchestra play "die
Watch on Rinewine," and feed us on weenies and pumpernickle for supper
at the ball if something radical wasn't done at once? That is, I mean
radical in the right sense, of course. So when she says "Any other
remarks?" I jumped to my feet quick before she could say "the meeting is
injoined."

"Yes, Miss Ruby Schwartz Roselle, there is," I said. "I will be obliged
to have the floor a minute."

"You can have it for all of me, dearie," says Ruby, sweetly, as she
recognized her enemy. "Miss Marie La Tour has the floor."

And then without hardly knowing what I was doing and forgetting even to
feel did my nose need powder before I commenced, I began talking with
something fluttering inside me like a bird's wing. You know--a feeling
like a try-out before a big-time manager. But behind the scare, the
strength of knowing you can deliver the goods.

"Ladies and fellow or, I should say, sister-Kittens!" I commenced.
"There was a time when the well-known words 'Now is the time for all
good men to come to the aid of the party' so thrilled America that it
has become not alone printed in all copy books, but is the first
sentence which is learned by every typewriter. But since then times have
changed until, believe you me, now is the time for all good parties to
come to the aid of the nation in order to show all which are not
Americans first just where they get off, and ladies, we here assembled
are a party not to be scorned, what with a sustaining membership of over
five hundred, and more than a thousand one-dollar members. And what is
more, though admittedly mere females we have a vote in most places now,
including this state, and while I have no doubt you have always intended
to be good citizens, having the vote you are now obliged to be so."

There was quite a little clapping at this, so I was encouraged to go on,
although Ruby's voice says "Out of Order!" twice. Well, I couldn't see
anybody that was behaving disorderly, so I just went ahead with my idea.

"And so my idea is this," I says. "That all Americans, whether lady or
gentleman citizens, should get together in one big association for U. S.
A. Actually get together instead of leaving things be. An association
is, as I understand it, intended for purposes of association. And why
not simply associate each association with every other, canning all
small private schemes and party interests on the one grand common
interest of Bolsheviking the Bolsheviks? I'm sure that if all parties
concerned will forget they are Democrats or Republicans or Methodists or
Suffragists--even whether they are ladies or gentlemen, and remember
they are Americans, nothing can ever rough-house this country like
Europe has been in several places, for in Union is Strength, in God we
Trust, but He helps those who helps themselves, and if we'll only drop
our self-interests and make the union our first idea, God help the
foreigners which tries to help themselves to our dear country!"

By this time the girls was giving me a hand the like of which I never
had before on stage or screen, because their hearts were in them. Do you
get me? You do! And it was quite a spell before Ruby could get order,
although she kept pounding with the silver cat's-paw of her office.
Finally, when she could make herself heard, she says very sarcastic,

"And how does Miss La Tour suggest we commence?" she says.

"By unanimously voting ourselfs 'The White Kittens Patriotic Association
of America,'" I says at once. "Call a extra meeting to change the
constitution temporarily from annual Balls and festivals for the
benefit of indignant members, to a association for associating with
other associations as before suggested. Use part of the money from the
ball just arranged for, to advertise our idea in newspapers and
billboards, and believe you me, by the time we ladies get that far, some
gentleman's association will be on the job to show us a practical way to
use ourselves!"

Well, the Kittens seemed to think this all right, too, and in spite of
Ruby, the next meeting was called and we broke up in high excitement,
and I was surrounded by admiring friends all anxious to tell me they
felt the same as me, and so forth and etc. And finally, after I had been
treated to lunch by several of them, not including Ruby, I collapsed
into my limousine, and said home James, and set my face flat-ward with a
brave heart which knew no fear on account of having accomplished
something worth while. Even the sight of the obtrusively unobtrusive
bull still waiting like the wolf at the door, didn't dampen my spirit.

And it was not until I got upstairs that I commenced realizing that my
own home would be the first place to set in order, and how could I be a
great American female leader with a Bolshevist mother and a German
cook, and how could I preach a thing with one hand and not practice it
with the other? Of course, I could fire the cook, but how about Ma? It
was she herself settled that part of it the moment I stepped into the
parlor, for there she was all alone except for the two dogs, and what
was more, all of a heap, beside.

"Well, thank goodness, you decided to come home, Mary Gilligan!" she
says. "Something awful has happened!"

"Not Jim?" I gasps, my heart nearly stopping, for he is always the first
thing I think of.

"Jim, nothing!" says Ma. "It's poor Kiskoff!"

"Oh, him!" I says, relieved. "What of it?"

"They arrested him this morning!" says Ma, all broken up, the poor fish!
"Arrested him just before the meeting!"

"Good!" I says. "I knew they would. The hound, he couldn't go around
forever talking Bolshevism!"

"It wasn't for that," says Ma.

"Then for what?" I says, blankly.

"For back alimony!" says Ma, almost in tears. "It seems he married a
girl out in Kansas several years ago, and they parted when the circus
left, and it wasn't Russian he was talking, but Yiddish! He speaks
English as well as me."

"And I suppose you'll tell me next that he wasn't talking Bolshevism,"
says I.

"He wasn't--he was only asking them to join the circus-workers' union
Local 21--" says Ma. "He explained it all to the cops!"

"Ma!" I demanded solemnly, a light coming over me. "Ma, have you
honestly got any idea what this Bolshevism _is?_ Come on, own up!"

"Certainly!" she says. "It's something like Spiritualism or
devil-worship, ain't it? A sort of fancy religion!"

"Nothing so respectable!" I says very sharp, yet awful relieved that I
had guessed the truth. "No such thing. Bolshevism is Russian for
sore-head. Religion my eye! It's about as much a religion as small-pox
is!"

Oh! the handicap of having no education! I certainly felt sorry for Ma.
But I needn't of because she give me one of them looks of hers which
always turns my dress to plaid calico and pulls my hair down my back
again.

"Well, daughter, why didn't you say so in the first place?" she says,
just as if she'd caught _me_ in a lie. But I let it pass and
apologized, I was so glad to find she was a fake. And Ma promised to
leave them low circus people alone for a spell and come back to the
White Kittens again. I then announced I was going out and fire Anna. At
that a look of terror came over Ma's face, and she restrained me by the
sleeve.

"Be careful how you go near that kitchen!" she says warningly.

"For heaven's sakes, Ma!" I says. "What's wronger than usual out there?"

"I dunno, but I think something is!" she says. "I believe it's a bomb!"

"A bomb!" I says. "Whatter you mean?"

"Anna is out to market," says Ma, "and the one with the black beard like
poor Kiskoff's brought it. 'For Anna,' says he, and shoved it at me, and
snook off down the stairs like a murderer."

"Brought _what?"_ I says.

"The bomb, of course!" says Ma, impatient herself.

"How do you know it's one?" I says, a little uneasy and wishing I had
fired Anna before she got this swell chance of firing us.

"Well, it looks just like the one in the picture where them three
Germans blew theirselves up in the newspaper!" says she. "And it ticks."

"My Gawd!" I says. "Where is the thing?"

"On the kitchen-table," says Ma.

"Well," I says, bravely. "I think I aught to take a look at it anyways."

"I wished you wouldn't," says she. But she came down the hall after me
like the loyal mother she is, and the two of us stopped at the
threshhold as the poet says.

And there, sure enough, in the middle of the spotless oilcloth on the
kitchen table lay a mighty funny looking package, about the size of a
dish-pan and done up in that black oil-cloth them foreigners seem so
fond of. And between yells from that radical parrot, who commenced his
"I love Anarchy!" the moment he set eyes on us, we could hear that
evil-looking package tick as plain as day.

Well, what with a mother and a father both practically born on the
centre trapese and used myself to taking chances since early childhood,
I don't believe I'm more of a coward than most. But I will admit my
heart commenced going too quick at that sight and the radical bird was
as usual loose in the place, and didn't make my nerves any easier. But
a stitch in time often saves a whole pair of silk ones, and remembering
this, I took some quick action. I turned up my georgette crepe sleeves,
and the front of my skirt so's not to splash it, and made straight for
the sink, keeping my eye on the centre-table all the while.

"Look out!" screams Ma. "What are you going to do?"

"Throw cold water on it!" I says. And filling the dish-pan I took a long
sling with it, and pretty near drowned the kitchen table, to say nothing
of the scare I threw into Frits. As soon as he quit, we listened again,
but my efforts had been in vain, for the thing was still ticking--slow,
loud ticks, and very alarming.

"No good!" I says, sadly. "We'll have to take severer measures!"

"Well, what'll they be?" says Ma.

"There's a plain-clothes cop outside looking for trouble," says I
grimly, "and here is where I hand him a little," says I.

And then, without waiting even to roll down the georgettes, I hurried to
the window and looked out. Like most cops, he couldn't be seen at first
when wanted, but finally he came into view and I tried to catch his
attention, but was unable to at first. But finally he heard me and
looked up, and I beckoned.

"Bomb!" I says. "Hurry up!"

And did he hurry? He did! I would not of believed a man his size could
do it, but he must of beat the elevator, for it never brought me up that
fast. When I let him in, his lack of surprise was the most alarming
thing which had yet been pulled. He evidently _expected_ a bomb to be
here.

"By golly, we'll get them now!" he says triumphantly. "We been watching
this place for two months on account of having it straight that there is
a bunch of Bolshevist bomb makers in this building or the next one, and
this is the first time anything has stirred! Where is your bomb? Lead me
to it!"


IV

WELL, I didn't lead him exactly. Since he was so set up about it, I let
him go ahead, but Ma and me followed close behind and told him the way
and everything. When he came to the kitchen door Frits let out a yell
"Anarchy! I love Anarchy!" and you aught to of seen the cop stagger in
his tracks for a minute. But he came to immediate, and we all stood at
attention while he give that bundle the once-over. It was ticking away
as strong as ever.

"Hey! get me a pail of water, quick!" says the cop. I did it, and then,
I will certainly give him credit for it, he grabbed up the bundle and
plunged it in with both hands just as Anna come in at the door.

Believe you me, I never saw anything so funny as what happened then. The
cop took his hands out the water and stood there dripping and staring at
her.

"Hello, Anna!" he says. "What you doing here?"

"Ay bane working!" says Anna. "How you bane, Mike?"

"Pretty good!" he says. "But kind of busy with a bomb we got here. Stand
off while I take a look. It has quit ticking and I guess it's drownded!"

He lifted the wet bundle out, and the minute Anna sees it she set up a
yell as good as one of her pet parrot's.

"That bane mine!" she says, making a grab for it. But Mike held her
off.

"Yours, eh?" he says, severely. _"Yours!_ Well, we'll just have a look
at it, my girl!"

With which he undid the string, unfolded the oilcloth, and there was a
big new alarm-clock with the price still on it--2 beans--and a round,
heavy cheese!

"Bane youst a present from may feller!" says Anna coyly.

Well, did we feel cheap? We did. And in addition to that Mike, the smart
and brave young cop, was disappointed something terrible.

"Who is this Anna?" I asked him soon's I got my breath.

"Oh, a Swede girl--I know her a long time," he says foolishly. "Used to
entertain me in the basement when I was on the regular force. She's
_some_ cook! You're lucky to have her."

And just then this ex-pro-German Bolshevist cook we was so lucky to have
starts to yell again!

"Frits! Oy! Frits!" she says. "He bane gone! Make un yoump back!"

And sure enough, there was Frits on the fire-escape of the flat next to
us. He had give one hop and a flutter and got across, where he sat,
silent for once in his life and giving us the evil-eye.

"Yoump back," says the cook in passionate entriety. "Yoump back to your
Aniky that you love! All day you yell you love may an' now you leave
may!"

And as she said them words still another weight was lifted from my
shoulders, although not from hers, for instead of jumping back, that
radical bird which it seemed was not a radical after all and acting like
the most conventional parrot in the world, commenced to climb up the
fire-escape of the other apartment house, like he was leaving us
forever.

"Yoump!" implored Anna, but he just climbed, instead.

"Here, wait, and I'll get him!" says Mike. "Glad to do it, Anna. I can
step across easy enough!"

Anna held his coat, and he swung hisself over to the other side almost
as neat as a picture-actor, and commenced following that mean-hearted
bird up and up, story after story, until that animal led him in at a
open window about three flats above. We waited in silence and, believe
you me, I had about commenced to believe that bird and he was never
coming out again, when down comes Mike, the bird tucked into his vest,
his face simply purple with excitement. I never seen any acrobat work
swifter or quieter than he did. He landed on the kitchen floor and
closed the window behind him before he even give Anna her bird.

"The telephone!--quick! The telephone--headquarters at once--I've got
that guy this time at last! And to think that a damn bird had to find
him for me!"

And it was the truth. Frits, far from being an alien, was a good little
American parrot and had actually led the cop to the very place he had
been looking for all that while, and they arrested two guys and
everything!

And after they got through the phone rang and there was Goldringer's
voice.

"The aeroplane has come, Miss La Tour," he says. "When will you be
over?"

"First thing in the morning!" I says, relieved to think of a quiet day
ahead. Ain't it grand to have work you love to do? It's so restful!



VI


THE GLAD HAND


I

I SEE a piece in the paper where that ex-leading headliner of the old
German Big-Time Circuit, William Hohenzollern, him that used to appear
in the spiritualistic act known as "Me and God," claims he had no hand
in starting those fireworks in Europe which has recently ended in a
Fourth of July celebration. And although myself a good American and
looking with doubt upon any statement known to be German, I am sort of
inclined to believe him. At any rate, to believe that he was not the
whole cheese in the matter, but only a sort of limp limberger, or swiss,
and full of holes. Because it's my experience personally myself, that a
strong personality with a clean-cut idea can usually get a thing done if
they elect theirself boss and stick on the job until it is finished, but
if they call a committee meeting and discuss the action before them,
the whole idea is likely to get stalled. Why, look at Congress! Not that
I, being a mere lady of the female sect, know why or how they get
stalled, or on just what. But it's a cinch they do and are, and you can
prove it by any editorial page in the country. And it seems that Billy
the Bone-head, confessed to the reporter, which managed to get this
Sunday story printed, that a committee meeting of Yonkers or something
was called about the war, he, Bill the Badman, not having the bean to go
to it alone, and it was them ruined the war, or so he says. Which goes
to show that not alone in the theatrical and moving-picture worlds do
the heads of departments alibi their flivvers, but also in the
King-business, and it's a habit which may even yet ruin the former, as
it pretty near has the latter, unless they quit shirking and deliver
better goods. Because if the Head Has-Been had had any real thinker and
had thought up the war all by his little self and forced it on his
book-keeper, cashier and so forth, he might of got away with it like
Napoleon and Rockefeller and Eva Tanguay and a lot of them which has
thrust riches and success upon theirselves.

But no committee can ever do that sort of thing. It takes a
single-handed personality, and I guess mabe the biggest bluff Germany
has had to confess to is her ex-leader. He seems the A-1 example of how
true it is that well-known tailors' ad, "Clothes make the man." Also it
inspires me to invent a quotation to hang beside the famous one of
Shakespeare's, I think it is "Do it now!" which you see so often, mine
being "Do it yourself!" Well, you will if you are the able one on a
committee. Everybody which has served on one knows that every committee
is composed of the one which does all the work and three to six others
which uses most of their vitality and imagination in thinking up excuses
and offering them.

Well, anyways, the foregoing is why I simply eliminated the other
members of my Theatrical Ladies' Committee of Welcome to Our Returning
Heroes. And eliminating them was so simple, too. I just didn't call any
committee. And why would I, what with the knowledge I had gained through
former experiences? Believe you me, a lady which learns by experience
is a great little time-saver, although admittedly rare, but in my line
you don't fall out of a air-plane more than once, and any successful
picture actress and dancer like myself will tell you the same. So as to
committees, none for me, thanks just the same, as the man said to the
soda clerk the morning of July first, 1919 A. D., which is Latin for
Anti-Drinking. Not that I will ever again try to get into the
strong-character class with the aforementioned celebrities, for a
reputation for doing anything well is as good as a signed contract to do
it. And my advice to young girls is, don't let it be known you can do
anything well or you'll have to deliver constantly. Look as ignorant as
possible whenever anything is suggested except the thing you are burning
to get after, or your time will be taken up with a lot of useless
side-lines that get you nowheres. There is a person for every job if you
just let the job alone until the right person finds it. Did you ever
notice the way simps which can't do a thing always get it done for them?
You have! Well--from this on, here's where I look like a poor fish
whenever anybody outside of a motion-picture magnate or a theatrical
manager makes a noise like work to be done.

All the amateur stuff can be taken care of by the sweet womanly women
who ain't got anybody to support except their dressmakers, and not by a
mere professional earning near a hundred thousand a year like I. My
final lesson on working with volunteer boards and committees is a
un-wept memory, and believe you me, that Chateau Terry battle had
nothing on some of the War Relief Committee board rooms I seen in
executive session and keep the home fires burning is right, we done it,
especially the White Kittens Belgian Relief, which it's a fact we nearly
split over whether we'd print our postcard appeals on pink or yellow
cards!


Well, anyways, I suppose these relief committees was a big help to them
that was on them if not to any one else, and after all a lot of money
somehow got left to do good with after expenses was paid. But the
biggest relief I know of come from relieving ourselfs of them relief
committees, and the last of all was the Welcome Home one.

I wouldn't of gone on it in the first place only I was so low in my
mind. And who wouldn't be a little low even with my cheery disposition
after such a morning as I went through, first commencing with the loss
of Maude.

Not that I had ever liked her nor 'Frisco, her husband, either, but
losing her was worse than living with her any day, and when Ma come in
and broke the news I wasn't in any mood for it, struggling as I was over
the joint contract which Goldringer had just sent on from Los Angeles as
a nice surprise and welcome for Jim which we were expecting to hear he
would be leaving France any day now. It called for seventy-five thousand
per each of us for six joint pictures, our expenses to the coast, and I
was holding out for a car while there and a special publicity man of our
own to be paid by them, but chosen by us, meaning Rosco, which has so
faithfully let the public know every time I sneezed these last five
years and has a way of disguising a two column ad so's the editor thinks
it's a news item.

Well, anyways, I was reading through all that foreign language portion
of this contract and had waded past about a page of "to wit, viz.: party
of the first part" stuff, which sounds like it didn't mean anything,
but is where they sometimes slip one over on you, when in come Ma with a
big home-made cruller partly in her hand and partly in her face. She was
dreadfull agitated but had to get rid of the first part of the second
party before she could speak, and I put in a few seconds of watchful
waiting, wondering how could she do it, for Ma had put on at least
thirty lbs. the last few months and believe you me, she was no slif
before then, weighing some amount she would never tell just what and
anybody knows what that means with a woman. But up to just recent she
had gone through spells where she was making at least the faint motions
of dieting, or when not that, sighing and saying she hadn't really ought
to over every second helping but taking it. Do you get me? You do!


Since she had heard Jim was coming back, however, she had taken to
eating everything in sight regardless. It give me real pleasure to think
of any mother-in-law feeling that way about her daughter's husband and
dancing partner coming back, for with many mothers it is nothing of the
kind. So I made no remarks upon the cruller, and finally Ma give a gulp
and gasped out the bad news.

"Maude is gone!" she says.

"Gone?" says I. "Whatter you mean, gone?"

"I can't find her no place!" says Ma. "And I looked everywheres!"

This give me a most unpleasant feeling down my back, and I got to my
feet in a hurry.

"Are you sure she ain't hid?" I says, "like the last time," I says.

"Come and see for yourself!" says Ma, and I went, you can bet on that!
And sure enough, she wasn't in the box. Ma lifted the wire off the top
and lifted out the two old sofa cushions we had put in for comfort and
only Maude's husband, 'Frisco, was there. He was as usual lying in about
five coils like a boiler-heater, with his wicked-looking flat head on
the top, and he stuck out his oyster fork of a tongue, and give us a
little hiss, much as to say, why was we always disturbing him. But no
Maude.

"Ma!" I began, catching a guilty look on her face. "Ma Gilligan, you
left that snake out again! After all the times I ast you not to!"

"Well, it was just for a minute!" she says. "I was playing with her, and
then I thought maybe the crullers I had made was cool by then and I went
and got a few and when I come back she was gone!"

"Well, she's got to be found, that's all!" I snapped. "All this comes
from you insisting on keeping in with them low circus people and
boarding their acts for them!"

"But Madame Estelle had to stay with her husband when he fell offen the
trapeze and they so devoted!" says Ma. "And I didn't take the big
snakes--the substitute is using them--but only her own dear pets which
the landlady wouldn't leave her have in her room."

"And now one of them is loose in _my_ room!" I says, "which is the
general result of charity which, as the poet says, had ought to begin at
home," I says. "And you know, Ma, how I feel about snakes. There's
nobody in the psycopathic ward got anything on me. If only they had even
a few feet instead of so many yards, I wouldn't mind them so much."

"Well, now Mary, I'm real sorry," says Ma. "But not half so sorry as
Madame Estelle will be if anything happens to Maude! I'm real fond of
the little beauty myself, and if you had been with a circus all the
years I was, you would understand her better!"

Well, believe you me, it wasn't a lack of understanding with me, it was
a religious conviction, and why not, for hadn't them beasts made trouble
beginning with the original eviction of undesirable tenants, and was I
to think it likely that our own janitor would be any more lenient if
Maude was to get, say, as far as the elevator? Keeping snakes never got
a tenant in right yet and loose ones might set the first of May forward
as many months as was necessary. Not to mention my own personal feelings
in the matter, which it's a fact I once broke a contract on the
Small-Time years ago because a snake-charmer come off just as I was
going on and I used to meet her and them in the wings every time.

Well, anyways, I will say it for Ma, she certainly turned in and helped
me make a thorough search for Maude, which was going some for a lady of
her figure. Looking for a vanished snake in a apartment means
considerable gymnastics, because nothing can be overlooked with safety,
and I didn't want that parlor-eel slipping anything over on
me--especially her cold stomach in the middle of the night across my
face, for instance.


So I and Ma looked under all the furniture and in the pedalcase of the
pianola and in the vases and behind the steam radiators, back of the big
gold clock, inside the victrola, under the rugs, back of the pictures on
the wall and every place:--but no Maude. Finally we even took a look out
in the hall, although we knew nobody had opened the front door, and
after that we opened the wall safe where we keep our diamonds in a
stocking, this being a compromise between Ma's habits and my
common-sense. And then we had a peep into the ice-box where Ma found a
saucer of pudding which she had someways overlooked at supper but no
snake.

And after we had felt under the bath-tub with my best lavender umbrella
which what with the limousine it was the first use I ever had for it,
and then taken a forlorn hope into the soiled-clothes hamper, we give it
up, and sat down with ruined georgette blouses and perfectly wild
looking hair and all heated up like a couple of wrestlers. Any one
coming in then would of thought we had been indulging in a family
discussion of some kind, and for a matter of that it's the truth. I said
a few raw remarks about the kind of a home she run for me and I working
as hard as cider to keep it and now she left snakes around, Gawd knows
where, and how would a artist like myself get the rest to do justice to
my work on the bomb-explosion scene in the last reel of "Bosh or
Bolshevik?" which I was going to be shot in only the next day, and if
she had to support me instead of I her, she would have a right to leave
any animals or minerals around she chose, but this was my flat and
although Gawd knew she was welcome, pretty soon we would have none if I
was to be made a nervous wreck out of instead of the biggest nerve in
pictures. Yes, I said that and a lot more pretty mean stuff as only a
daughter can--for even with my refinement I am but a mere human after
all, and under the glittering success of my career is several common
human failings and at times I act no different from any less well-known
female in the bosom of my family.

So I had the last word and Ma was in wrong and went to get lunch without
a come-back out of her. Alas! Had I but canned that foolish chatter of
mine! But how could I know she was going to act like she done later
because of it? You can't remember forwards and if a person could, it's
ten to one they'd quit before they was off the bottle and go back to
Heaven whence they come, life being so full of mistakes you could of
avoided if only you had done something different from what you did!


II

Well, anyways, Ma went back to the kitchen to fix up a little snack of
waffles and honey and poached eggs on hash and cream-cake and
strawberries with a cup of cocoa and whipped cream for a light lunch,
her lunches being light about the way a "light" motor truck is, and I
went back to my joint contract and was so mad I concluded to write into
it not alone expenses and Rosco but a cottage or bungaloo, as it is
called in Los Angeles, while out there. With which I wrote a refined but
firm letter to Goldringer, saying this was my final word on the matter
and spoke also for Jim. Then I enclosed the contract and Ma called out
the cocoa was getting cold and so I stamped and put it in the hall-slot
which I never have a feeling any letter going down it is headed for
anybody except maybe the devil, and not even him unless it don't get
stuck on the way. And then I ate, though not with much appetite, what
with expecting any moment to see Maude crawl out from some place, and Ma
being quiet to a extent not to be fully accounted for by three plates of
waffles. It wasn't natural in her, that quiet, but I remembered the
doughnuts and laid it to the sequence. Still I tried to get her to talk,
as talking, if about herself, generally cheers her quite a lot.

"Anything ail you, Ma?" I says.

"Nothing much," says Ma, lighting into the cream-cake. "Nothing to speak
of."

"Tell me about it then!" I says. But Ma wouldn't. She heaved a big sigh
and handed me a substitute for what was really on her mind. It was
something just as good, I credit her for that.

"You know the stuff you ordered from Schultz?" she says.

"You mean the wet goods I ordered to keep Jim from parching to death
this summer?" I says, because although Jim is far from a real drinking
man, he having his profession of dancing always in mind even after
eleven P. M. and Gawd knows never fails to realize that sound
acrobatics is the basis of all good dancing which a drunkard never yet
was, or at least not for over two seasons; still, in spite of all this,
Jim is a mere male and a drink or two, especially if difficult to get,
is not by any means objectionable to him. And beside he had been two
years in France and I didn't want him to feel it had anything on America
when he come home, even if I had to go so far as to myself personally
replace what Congress had taken away. Do you get me? You do! And I had
done it as far as my bank account, cellarette and the liquor-dealer
permitted. Which looked like it was going to postpone the drought quite
sometime for us. And while here and there stuff like champagne and
brandy and vermouth had to be bought, like remnants on a bargain
counter--just kind of odds and ends of each--I had one satisfaction out
of the buy, and that was getting a case of Old Home Rye--absolutely the
last case in the city--probably the last in the whole entire U. S. A.,
and it was Jim's one best bet. A high-ball of this--just one--with his
dinner was about his exact idea of drinking, and I had calculated that
the three gallons, taking it at his rate would last him pretty near a
year, and by that time some new vice would surely of been invented to
take its place.


Well, anyways, I had ordered it and paid for it, and there wasn't any
more of it anywheres, and it and the contract with Goldringer was two of
the best surprises I had for Jim.

"Well," says Ma. "I can't say I approve of the demon Rum coming into
our--your house, but once money is paid out, I like to see the
goods--_all_ the goods, delivered," she says.

"What's this leading up to?" I asked.

"To the way that man Schultz cheats you!" says Ma. "He didn't send the
Old Home Rye!"

Believe you me, never have I been handed a meaner deal than that, no,
not even the night Goldringer first heard of me and came to see my
try-out for the big time and my pink tights didn't come.

"Ma!" says I. "Why don't you call him up and find out why didn't he?"

"I've done that!" she says. "And he claims on his oath it was sent with
the rest. I spoke to the boy which brought it and then to Schultz
himself. They both claim they give it to Rudie."

Rudie was the janitor but he had missed his profession. He had ought to
of been a sleight-of-hand man, for he could make things disappear in a
way which would of delighted a morning matinée audience, especially
those under twelve years of age. Believe you me, though, he was never
known to make anything grow where nothing had been before--not rabbits
or even silk handkerchiefs, but it's the truth that he had onct or twice
caused a vanished quart of cream to reappear if given a sufficiently
hard call quick enough after it was missed. And the minute I heard he
was cast for a part in my tragedy, I decided to hear him read his lines
right off without no delay, because it was practically impossible that
he could of got away with more than a quart yet and I was prepared to go
through the business of believing him when he come to the description of
how he had dropped it by accident and too bad but it broke.

Which was all right in theory, but Rudie did nothing of the kind.
Evidently so long as he was lying he had made up his mind it was as
well to be killed for a case as a quart, as the poet says, and when I
sent for him and he had kept me waiting while he sifted the ashes and
pounded on the steam pipes and talked to the garbage man and got a light
from the cop and chatted with the elevator-girl and a few little odds
and ends like that just to show me where I got off, he finally decided
to come up. Well, it was seven months to Xmas, so what could I expect?
Anyways, he finally made his entrance, down R. C. to footlights, in my
Louis-size drawing-room, leaving tracks behind him which Ma spotted with
a angry eye as fast as he laid them, and with all the well-known
courtesy of the proletariat he looked me in the eye.

"Well?" he says.

"Say, Trotsky!" I says, for I had never liked this bird, as he was on
one continued drunk. "Look here, Lenine," I says, glad of the chance to
insult him. "A case of fine whisky at sixty dollars net seems to of been
avoidably detained in your dug-out. I expect that with a little
searching you can stumble on it. And as for that bottle you broke by
accident, don't bother to mention it," I says, "because I am gladly
doing so for you," I says. "Only kindly find the rest and we will also
forget about this morning's cream."

Probably I hadn't ought to of been so generous, for Rudie sort of swayed
a little and give me a pleasant childlike smile out of his unshaved
doormat of a face.

"Dunno wash you mean!" he says, real pleasant.

"Jim is right about the kick in that stuff," I says, eyeing him
critically. "You certainly have a swell bun!"

"Why, Mish La Tour!" says Rudie. "Don't drink a dropsh! Never toush it."

And with that he give a sigh of disappointment in me which made the
place smell like a bar-room!

"But of coush I'll shee if itsh down stairsh!" he says.

Well, there was no use in arguing with him, I could see that all right,
all right, but I left him know I wasn't swallowing any such a poor alibi
as his own word.

"All right, you second-hand shock absorber!" I says. "Maybe I can't jolt
the truth out of you, but I will hand you one small piece of information
before you take your reluctant departure. You'll find that whiskey or
the cops will. And if they don't get me a judgment against you, one
will come from heaven, that's a cinch, for you not only got the stuff,
but you took it off a returning soldier which is a bigger crime than
mere patriotic stealing would be," I says. "You wait and see what'll
happen to you if you don't come across! We got a long score to settle,
we have, and right always wins out in the end, and that's my middle
name!"

Well, he went away very proud and hurt to think I would suspect him of
such a crime, he being that kind of a drunk. Do you get me? Of course!
Gosh! How I do hate to see a person in liquor; really, I think
prohibition will be a good thing for all of us, and was myself only
storing up a little, for exceptional reasons. And when a person begins
talking about federal prohibition and their constitutional rights I
can't help but wonder why they don't consider it in the physical as well
as the political sense.

Well, anyways, it was a blow to lose that Old Home, and awful irritating
on top of Maude. And then, while pulling myself into one of these new
accident-policy-destroying narrow skirts which belongs with what is
through courtesy called my new walking suit, the hall-girl brought the
mail and Musette give it to me in the midst of my negligee and struggles
and I stopped dead when I seen the first letter, for it was marked
"Soldier's Mail" and only one which has some one expected home and at
the same time welcome, can know how that particular mark thrills.
Musette observed me register joy so she registers it too, and I tore
open the envelope forgetting the skirt which had a death-grip on my
knees, and opened up the page in Jim's dear handwriting.


Did you ever come to a time in your life where you had one trouble on
top of another until it seemed like nothing more could possibly happen
except maybe the end of the world, and then something still worse was
pulled on you? You have! Well, this letter was pretty near the end of
the world to me--at least a distinct postponement of anything which
could with any truth be called living. For Jim wasn't coming back with
the 70th after all! As I read his words in that dear boyish handwriting
of his which he never had time to learn to write better, being like
myself quicker with his feet than hands, my eyes filled with tears and
I stumbled to the day-bed as good as I could with the skirt, and sat
down. It seemed he had been put in charge of some special work in Paris
and it might be six months before he'd get sent home! Six months! And me
getting all ready for a second honeymoon inside of six weeks! And
instead of being out in the wholesome country with me at Saratoga or
Long Beach or Niagara Falls or some place, he would be in Paris! That
was what I had to face and any woman will readily understand my
feelings.

Believe you me, I didn't care for Maude or the Old Home or the contract
or anything for over three-quarters of a hour. And I had to wash my face
and powder my nose three times after I was finally dressed on account of
breaking down again when just completed.

Whenever a person has a real sorrow come to them the best way to do is
control it quick before it controls you. So after I had indulged in the
womanly weep which certainly was coming to me, I braced up and got into
the new suit with the idea of taking as brisk a walk as it would allow
of. Then I put on a new hat which I had intended for my second
honeymoon but which would never see it or him, as it would undoubtedly
be out of style by the time Europe had made up its mind one way or
another, and I was just going to leave when the bell rung and Ma come in
to say it was a caller.

"It's that Mr. Mulvaney from the Welcome Home Committee, the one that
had you on the 'phone yesterday," says Ma. And after a minute I kind of
caught control of myself and says well, all right, I would see him and
went in.

Well, it sure is strange the birds they pick out for these deeds of
synthetic patriotism. This one come from the neighborhood of Fourteenth
Street and must of got his appointment of chief welcomer from the way he
give the glad hand. You would of thought he was cranking a flivver that
wouldn't crank the way he kept on shaking after any real need was past.
And if he was to of greeted each of the boys the way he done me, the
army wouldn't be demobilized in our generation! Also he had a suit on
him which spoke for itself and a watch-chain which must of posed for
them in the cartoons of Capital--do you get me? Sure! I and he had had a
long talk on the telephone as per above, and so as soon as he left go
his cinch on my hand, he got right down to business.

"Now, Miss La Tour--er--it--er--gives me great pleasure to think you
will take charge of the Theatrical Women's Division," he says. "Er--I am
a great admirer of yours--that picture you done, 'Cleopatria,'
now--great stuff!"

Well, I let that pass, because how would such a self important bird as
this know my art when he sees it, and if he enjoyed Theda, why not leave
him be? I changed the subject at once for fear he would be confusing me
with Caruso next.

"And so I'm to spend ten thousand of the hundred thousand iron-men
raised by the Welcome Committee?" I says hastily. "How nice. What will
it go for?"

"That is for you and your committee to decide," he says. "I'm sure you
will think up something tasty," he says. "And go to the limit--we need
ideas."

Well, anybody could see that. But I only says all right.

"I suppose you are familiar with committees?" says this human
editorial-page-sketch.

"I'm never too familiar with anybody," I says stiffly. "But I have been
acquainted with more than one committee."

"Well, here are the papers I promised you--the general scheme and so
forth. The central committee will meet as is indicated here. See you at
them. Pleased to of seen you off the screen! You certainly was fine in
'Shoulder Arms'!"

And before I could get my breath he had looked at a handsome watch no
bigger than a orange, humped into his coat and was off in a shower of
language that left me no come-back.

Believe you me, I was glad when he had squoze out through our typical
apartment hall and the gilt elevator had snapped him up. For to hand me
ten thousand to spend on welcoming a bunch of other women's husbands
was, to soft pedal it, rubbing it in. I was only about as upset as that
spilled milk that was cried over and no wonder at 18 cents a qt. Well,
anyways, it was no light thing to face, going on with this work and
Jim's letter scarcely dry from my tears. But having promised over the
telephone and being given no chance to refuse in the parlour, I would
keep my word if not my heart from breaking.

Because, anyways, if I was simply to do nothing to occupy myself except
maybe a few thousand feet of fillum and rehearsing my special dance act
for the Palatial and my morning exercises and walking my five miles a
day and all that quiet home stuff which gives a person too much time to
think, what would I think, except a lot of unprintable stuff about any
administration which was keeping him in a town like Paris, France? And
the only comfort I could see in sight was to work hard to give the boys
that _was_ coming a real welcome and remember that Jim never was a
skirt-hound--that I ever saw.


III

Having reached this resolve I decided to go on the walk I had mapped out
anyways, because what is home with a disappeared snake in it? And so I
started, and as I come past the door in the lower hall, which its marked
"Superintendent," which is Riverside-Drivese for Janitor, what would I
hear but Rudie singing to himself out of the fullness of his heart or
something.

I went out in wrath and the spring sun and after a while I begun to
feel less sore and miserable in my heart, partially because of the fresh
air and partially through irritation at the stylish trouser-leg that
both of mine was in. But the day was too sweet for a person to stay mad
long. Ain't it remarkable the way spring can creep into even a city and
somehow make it enchanted and your heart kind of perk up and take
notice--do you get me? You do, or Gawd pity you! It's the light, I
guess, just the same as the audience holds hands when they turn on the
ambers with a circular drop for a sunset or something.

And by the time I had walked along the Avenue and seen all the
decorations which was already put up for the first regiments home, I
commenced getting real fired and excited with my new job. It looked like
the powdered-sugar industry was going to suffer because about all the
plaster in the country seemed to be being used on arches which looked
like dago-wedding cakes and you actually missed the dolls dressed like
brides and grooms off the top of them. And here and there was some funny
looking columns of the same white stuff and on the Public Library steps
a bunch of spears and shields was thrown all over the place just as if
a big Shakespearian production had suddenly give it up in despair and
left their props and hoofed it back to Broadway. It certainly was
imposing.

Up at 59th Street was a arch that looked like Coney Island frozen solid.
It was all of little pieces of glass:--heavy glass and millions of
pieces. I don't know what good they did, but they shone something grand,
and must of cost a terrible lot of money. I guessed the boys would
certainly feel proud to march under it provided none of it fell on their
heads.

Believe you me, by the time I got home my head was full of imaginary
architecture like Luna Park and Atlantic City jumbled together with a
set I seen in "The Fall of Rome" when we was shooting it at Yonkers. And
after I had squirmed out of my walking suit and was a free woman once
more, in a negligee, which is French for kimona which is Japanese for
wrapper, well, anyways, I lay in it and opened up the evening paper
because I am not one to let the news get ahead on me and have acquired
the habit of reading it regular the same as my daily bath.

But it was hard to keep my attention on it because Maude was still
missing and also I kept thinking, when not of her, of the lovely arches
and so forth my ten thousand would build. I had about settled on
pink-stucco, with real American beauties strung on it and a pair of
white kittens in plaster--symbol of the best known Theatrical Ladies
Association in Broadway, and I expect the world--at the top, when I
opened the paper again and I see something which set my mind thinking.

"70th will add thousands to ranks of unemployed."

Yes, that's just what it said. And I went on and read the piece where it
said how enough men to start a real live city was being fed at
soup-kitchens and bread lines, not in Russia or Berlin, but right in N.
Y. C., N. Y., U. S. A.! Somehow, coming right on top of all their arches
and so forth, it sort of struck me in the pit of my stomach and give me
the same sinking sensation like a second helping of griddle-cakes a hour
later--you know! The thought of all that money going on arches that
after they was once marched under was no good to anybody but the ones
which built them and the ones which carted them away, had me worried.
Think of all the soup that glass and plaster would of made! Do you get
me? You do or you're a simp! And it also besides struck me that while
the incoming boys would undoubtedly enjoy them city frostings, them
which had already marched under them and was now in the bread-line must
be kind of fed up with it. Then I thought of the ten thousand intrusted
to me to spend which had been gladly given in small sections by willing
citizens who wanted to do some little thing to show appreciation to the
boys which had went over there, and I begun to realize I had been told I
could spend it anyways I wanted to.

And when I thought of that pink arch and roses I blushed, although
nobody had, fortunately, heard me mention it, except the two fool dogs,
aloud.

Believe you me, I then see like a bolt from the blue, as the poet says,
that arches was all right in their way but they was in the traffic's way
at best and made mighty poor eating. And so naturally with Ma having it
continually before me, I thought of ten thousand dollars worth of eats,
because while there is quite a lot of red X canteens for men in uniform,
how about the poor birds which had just got out of a uniform and not yet
got into a job? Besides there is something kind of un-permanent about
food unless a salary to get more with follows it as a chaser.

And so I lay there in comfort all but for the thought of Maude, and
figured and figured what would I do. It seemed it was a cinch to get
money from people to give the boys a welcome but what to spend it on was
certainly a stiff one. But after a while I commenced to get a idea.
Which it's a fact I am seldom long without one when needed which
together with my great natural talent is what has made me the big
success I am.


Work! That was the welcome the boys needed. Work and a little something
substantial to start on. So this is what I figured. Suppose we was to
divide up that ten thousand, how many boys would it take care of, and
how?

Say we had ten men. A thousand each. Too much, of course. Twenty men.
Five hundred per ea. Still too much. Well, then forty men. Two fifty.
Well, they could use it of course, but it was not a constructive idea.
It was too much for a present and not enough to invest. So how about 80.
Well, that was $125. per man. This was doing something pretty good by
eighty men that would very likely need it, but it seemed sort of unfair
not to take in more of the boys. So I split it again and had one hundred
and sixty boys with $62.50 in their pockets.

Well, I felt kind of good over this idea and there was only two real
troubles with it which is to say that $31.25 for three hundred and
twenty boys looked nicer if there was only some way to handle it right.
But how?

I put in another hard think and then I got it. The way to make that
$31.25 a real present was to make it a payment on something and then
with the other hand pass out a job at the same time, which would not
alone keep the soldier but allow him to cover the difference.

And to get away with this all I needed now was a popular investment and
320 perfectly good steady jobs.

Well, with the Victory Loan the first part was easy enough, and I
concluded to pay twenty-five dollars on each of three hundred and twenty
one hundred dollar victory notes, making myself responsible for the lot
the same as if I was a bank and getting a job for each note and having
the giver of the job hold the note on the soldier and pay me the
instalments and I would pay myself back, or if not nobody would be stung
outside of me, supposing any one of them failed to come across. I was
going to take a big lot for myself and another ten didn't much matter.

And then with the remaining $6.25 each, well, I would pool that for
leaflets enough to go around the whole division and on the leaflet I
would have printed the facts and a list of the jobs and just what they
was, with how much kale per week went with them, and see that the boys
got them while the parade was forming and then it would be up to them,
because the home folks can only do so much and then it's up to the army
their own selves just as with munitions and sugar and red X work while
the big show was on. They did the work but we gave them the job--we and
the Germans. And now all we could do again was to give them a job--and
it's enough, judging from how they went after the first one.

And then, just as I come smack up against the awful fact of where would
I get them jobs Ma come in and says the hot-dogs and liberty-cabbage
which it's the truth we always translate them into American at our
table, was getting cold and as long as I was paying for them I'd better
eat them while they was fit. So I says all right and we went in and did
so.

Believe you me, it certainly is a remarkable thing the way you start on
a afternoon's work like I done, all full of vigor and strength and how
your ideas and courage and everything will sort of leak away toward the
time to put on the feed-bag at Evensong. And how again the ideas and pep
comes back in the evening once you have eaten. There was almost perfect
silence the first few minutes we sat down or would of been except for Ma
taking her tea out of the saucer, which I can't learn her not to do and
the only way I keep her from disgracing me at the Ritz and etc., is to
make sure she don't order it. But when the first pangs was attended to I
commenced to feel more conversational.


"Work," I says, thinking of what I had been thinking of. "Work is the
one thing that stands by a person. Everything else in life can go bluey
and their work will see them through. That's why it's been so popular
all these years, and where these Bolsheviks make their big mistake.
Because they don't work and not working they get bored to death and so
they commence rioting. Do you remember that quotation from that
well-known cowboy poet, Omaha Kiyim, "Satan will find business still for
idle hands to do?" How good that applies to strikes--idle hands--ain't
that perfect? And it written so long ago!"

"How long?" says Ma.

"Oh, I dunno. Maybe three hundred years," I says.

Ma laid down her knife and spoon, she being quite entirely through, and
looked me in the eye.

"I will remember them words, daughter," she says very solemn.

And it's the truth I never noticed how serious she was about it until I
come to look back on it nearly three weeks later.


IV

And during that time which has been so immortally fixed in writing by
the grandest book with the same name, I was as busy as the great
American cootie is supposed to be on his native hearth--only it ain't
that piece of furniture but another, of course. Do you get me? I'm
afraid so! Well, I was as busy as what you think. To begin with I called
a committee-meeting in the privacy of my grey French enamel boudoir
where I wear my boudoir cap and have the day-bed hitched and this
committee meeting consisted entirely of myself and the two fool dogs.
And after I had gone through all the motions, I appointed myself a
sub-committee of one to carry out the meeting's resolutions and do all
the work.

This is about what would of happened if I had done it the regular way
and asked Ruby Roselle and Maison Rosabelle and the other girls. We
would of had a mahogany table and a gavel and a pitcher of ice-water and
a lot of hot-air and a wasted morning and in the end I would of been the
goat anyways, so I thought why not do it single-handed in the first
place and be done? I could print all their names on the leaflets and
they would be perfectly satisfied.

So having got over the necessary formalities as you might say, I
accepted the nomination and got to work. Fortunately I wasn't doing
anything except a solo dance at the Palatial at supper-time and one
picture. And so I had most of my days to myself. The Fixings on the
Avenue grew and blossomed and so did my contribution to the Welcome Home
Committee. I didn't get to go to any of their meetings but I don't
imagine they even missed me at the time. And while the arches and other
motion-picture scenery was being as completed as they ever would be, so
was my list. My monument took up less space, but when you gave it the
once-over it seemed maybe a little more rain-proof than the others.
Apparently all there was to it was slips of paper six by eight with this
printed on them. At the top it says:

    "WELCOME HOME"

    "HOWDY BOYS, AND OUR HEARTFELT THANKS!

    DO YOU NEED A JOB? HERE ARE THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY AND A VICTORY NOTE

    GOES WITH EVERY ONE!"

Then come the list. I will put down a part of it so you can realize what
a assortment of things has to be done to keep the seive in civilization.

     4 handsome juveniles for motion-picture work--stage experience
     unnecessary.

     2 experienced camera men.

     2 marcel-wavers.

     6 chemists, Marie La Tour Complexion Powder Co.

     2 salesmen, Marie La Tour Turkish Cigarette Co.

     16 waiters, Palatial Hotel.

     1 traveling man, Marie La Tour Silk Underwear Co.

     2 experienced lineotypers, Motion Picture Gazette.

     2 experienced pressmen, Motion Picture Gazette.

     1 publicity man, experienced, Motion Picture Gazette.

     3 fillum cutters.

     1 stylish floorman. Must be handsome and refined, not over 30.
     Apply Maison Rosabelle, Hats and Gowns.

     1 orchestra complete, with leader. Apply "Chez La Tour" (my old
     joint of parlour-dancing days).

     30 chorus men.

     2 sparring partners for Madame Griselda, the famous lady-boxer.

And etc, add affinities, as the Romans used to say. And every one a real
genuine job paying good money. And getting them nailed was no cinch,
believe you me, except, of course, I being such a prominent person I
didn't have as much trouble as some would of. Especially where a firm
was using my name on something, they could hardly refuse me. I seen
everybody personally myself, and only the bosses and in the end nobody
had turned me down except the one from which I had bought my new
bear-cat roadster for Jim's welcome home present and it was _some_
roadster, being neatly finished in pale lavender with yellow
running-gear and a narrow red trim and tapestry upholstery on the seats
which was so low and easy you involuntarily started to pull up the
blankets after you got settled. You know, the kind of a car you have to
look up from to see which way the cop is waving.

Well, anyways, you would of thought the bird which had sold it to me for
cash money, him being the manager of the luxurious car-corrall himself,
would offer to take on some of the boys. But no, he says there was too
many auto salesmen in the world already, and that they had ought to be
diverted into selling some of the new temperance drinks where their
trained imagination would undoubtedly be of great value.

Well, anyways, he was the only one turned me down and I had the slips
printed and stored away in a couple of cretone hat-boxes and commenced
allotting the victory-note pledges. And then I tripped over the fact
that I was a job short. There was the stuff all printed, and a job too
short and it the night before the big parade! Well, I decided that when
the time come I would make the extra job if I couldn't find it, and
believe you me, I was as wore out looking for them as a Ham with his
hair cut like a Greenwich village masterpiece. Not that I ever saw one
and I have often wondered where the artists which drew them that way,
did.

But in the meantime I had got hold of the Dahlia sisters, and Madame
Broun and La Estelle, and Queenie King and a lot of other easy-lookers
and had it all fixed for them to be on hand below Fourteenth Street at
ten o'clock to give out the slips while the boys was mobilizing or
whatever they call it. And then just as I was getting into the limousine
with Musette and the two cretone hat boxes full and the two fool dogs
and Ma, who would come up to me but Ruby Roselle with a new spring set
of sables which it is remarkable how she does it in burlesque, still far
be it from me to say a word about any person, having been in the
theatrical world too long not to realize that it is seldom as red as it
is painted and that the coating of black is only on the outside.

Well, anyways, up she comes from her new flat which is only two doors
from mine and a awful mean look in those green eyes of hers under a
sixty dollar hat that looked it, while mine cost seventy-five and looked
fifteen, which is far more refined only Ruby would never believe that:
which is one main difference between her and I. And she stopped me with
one of those deadly sweet womanly smiles and says in a voice all milk
and honey and barbed wire, she says:

"How's this, dearie, about the Theatrical Ladies Committee," she says.
"I only just heard of it from Dottie Dahlia," she says. "What was it
made you leave me off?"

Well, seeing that the armistice was not yet broken I felt I might let
her distribute a few leaflets, although I had left her name off the
signatures at the bottom on account of her never having proved she
wasn't a alien enemy to anything besides dramatic art, which hadn't to
be proved. So I handed her a string of talk about this being a small
affair and how I had thought she would of been too busy to do anything
just now, which made her mad because there is some talk on account of
that she wasn't working just then. But she took a few leaflets and read
the signature at the bottom. "Theatrical Ladies' Welcome Committee" and
got real red in the face.

"Why, my friend Mr. Mulvaney spoke to me about this!" she says. "I was
to of been treasurer, or something! Do you mean to say you spent ten
thousand dollars on _them!"_ and she pointed to the leaflets like a
one-act small-time.

"Yep!" I says. "Take 'em home and try 'em on your piano!" I says. "But
you will have please to pardon me now. I got to beat it!"

And with that I climbed in with the rest of the family and we was rushed
down town to N. Y.'s Bohemian Quarter, where the 70th Division was about
to hang around waiting to parade. Which it is certainly remarkable the
places the highly moral U. S. A. Government picks out for her soldiers
to wait about in say from Paris to Washington Square, and I think their
wives and sweethearts have stood for a good deal of this sort of thing,
to say nothing of wives and sisters being kept from going abroad. I
don't know have any homes been broken up this way, but I will say that
Marsailles and Harlem would of listened better to the patiently waiting
homebodies.

Well, anyways, down we went to the amateur white lights, and by the time
we reached Twenty-Third we begun to run into bunches of the boys. Bands
was playing and all, and--oh my Gawd, what's the use trying to tell
about it? There was plenty to tell, but ain't every one _seen_ it? If
not at N. Y. C., why in some town which may be more jay but with its
heart in the right place, and the heart is the thing which counted this
time as per usual. Believe you me, mine was in my throat and so was
everybody elses when they seen them lean brown boys with their grown-up
faces!

Well, we stopped down to Eleventh and Sixth and got out and commenced
walking around handing out the leaflets, and at first they weren't
taking 'em very seriously, but pretty soon they began to get on to who I
was and of course that caught them and a good many tucked the slips
inside their tin hats and all of them pretty near had seen me in "The
Kaiser's Killing" and I got pretty near as big a ovation as I had tried
to offer them. And as for the parade they was very good-natured, but it
seemed to me that as usual the stay-at-homes in the grandstands was
getting the best of it and the boys doing all the work, for parading, no
more than a first-class dancing act, ain't quite the pleasure to the
ones that does it, that it is to them that only stands and waits, as the
saying is.


V

The crowds on the Avenue was something fierce, and the only ones which
had the right of way, outside of officers and cops, was the
motion-picture men. I seen Ted Bearson, my own camera man from the
Goldringer Studios, and Rosco, my publicity man, and they was talking
together. I stepped back in among the boys, because I wasn't looking for
any personal publicity myself on this particular day, wishing to leave
all that to the division and I knew that if Ted was to see me he would
shoot me.

But ain't it the truth that the modester a public person like me is, the
more attention they attract? My sweet, quiet voice, silent though snappy
clothes, and retiring manner have been in Sunday spreads and
motion-picture magazine articles practically all over the world and
America, and my refinement is my best-known characteristic. Publicity is
like men. Leave 'em alone and they simply chase you. Pretend you don't
want them, and you can't lose them. And the more reluctant I am about
being noticed, the wilder the papers get! Only, of course, without a
good publicity man this wouldn't, perhaps, be a perfectly safe bet.

So this day, having got rid of all my leaflets, I was slowly working my
way toward the Avenue, when publicity was thrust upon me.

You know this Bohemian part of New York is made up of old houses which
is so picturesque through not having much plumbing and so forth and heat
being furnished principally by the talk of the tenants on Bolshevism and
etc. These inconveniences makes a atmosphere of freedom and all that and
furnishes a district where the shoe-clerk can go and be his true self
among the many wild, free spirits from Chicago and all points west.
Well, this neighborhood could stand a lot of repairs, not alone in the
personal sense, but in a good many of the buildings, but these are
seldom made until interfered with by the police or building departments.
And on the corner of the street which I was now at there was a big old
house full of people who _did_ something, I suppose, and these were
mostly bursting out through the open windows or sitting on the little
balconies which looked like they couldn't hold a flower pot and a pint
of milk with any safety much less a human. But there they was, sitting,
with all the indifference to fate, for which they are so well known. I
couldn't but notice the risk they ran, but I should worry how many
radicals are killed, and so I paid but little heed until I noticed that
there was three little kids--all ragged children of the dear
proletariat--which some of the Bohemians had hauled up on a balcony
which was too frail for adults. The minute I see that balcony I was
scared to death, although the short-haired girl and the long-haired man
which was letting the kids out on it was laughing and care-free as you
please. The kids got out all right, and then something awful happened.

Right below was a open space at the head of this particular column,
where the officers and color-bearers and etc was. Rosco and Ted was
getting a picture of them. But while I generally watch a camera, this
time I didn't on account of watching the kids. And as I looked that
rotten old balcony broke and one them, a little girl, fell through and
hung there, caught by her skirt, and it a ragged one at that. Everybody
screamed and yelled and sort of drew back, which is the first way people
act at a horror before they begin to think. I yelled myself, but I
started toward her, because the radicals couldn't reach her from above
and from below the ground was fully twenty feet away and nothing but a
fence with spikes and a dummy window-ledge way to one side. But I had a
idea I might make it for what with two generations on the center trapeze
and never a drop of liquor and not to mention what I done in pictures, I
think quicker than some and act the same. But my new skirt prevented,
and ahead of me dashed a soldier.

In a minute he had scaled the wall and worked his way along the spikes
to that ledge, and then while the crowd watched breathlessly he had
that kid under one arm and was back on the wall again. He held her
close, turned around, crouched down and then jumped. And as he jumped I
screamed and run forward, for Oh My Gawd, it was Jim!


I don't know how I got there, but when I come to I and that scared kid
was all mixed up in his arms and the three of us crying to beat the band
which had struck up and the crowd yelling like mad. And it was a peach
of a stunt, believe you me.

"Didn't you get my cable?" Jim says. And I says no, and we clinched
again. And then we heard a funny, purring sound right behind and broke
loose and turned around and there was that devil of a Ted taking a
close-up!

"Hold it! Damn you, hold it another ten feet!" yells Rosco, who was
dancing around like a regulation director, just back of Ted. "Fine,
Fine! Oh, boy, what a pair of smiles! Say, folks, we shot the whole
scene--_some_ News Weekly Feature. Oh say, can you see me, Rosco, _the_
publicity man!"

Honest to Gawd you would of thought he had gone crazy! And that
bone-headed crowd couldn't make out was the whole thing staged or real.
Believe you me, I had to pinch myself to know was it real or not, but
thank Gawd it was, it was! And after nearly two years! Do you know how
that feels? Give a guess! And then, just as I thought now this cruel war
and everything is over, why that roughneck of a officer give the order
to fall in and of course Jim had to and left me there with that kid in
my arms for Ted to make a couple of stills for the papers.

Believe you me, I couldn't tell how many he took, or when, because
seeing Jim so sudden and unexpected had pretty near killed me, and I
couldn't say anything much about the parade either, because something
kept me from seeing it and I guess it was my own glad tears. Anyways, I
had three wet handkerchiefs in my bag when I got home and one of them a
perfect stranger's.

Well, of course, I expected the parade would break up when it struck
Harlem and the boys would hurry right home. And did they? They _did_
not! I hurried right home, all right, all right, but not so Jim. And for
a long while I was sitting there in one of my trousseau dresses and a
fearful state of mind over what had he done to get killed since I last
seen him. But hours went by and still he didn't come. And I didn't know
his 'phone or where he was or anything. The only clue I had that the
whole business was a fact and no dream was the cable, which had come
after he did, saying he would be home as arranged after all.

Believe you me, I hope never to live through another twenty-four hours
like them that followed, because I couldn't eat or sleep, not knowing
where he was.



Next morning I wouldn't even look at the papers which was Sunday and
full of our and the division's pictures. And Monday was worse, because
even although Jim might be alive none of the hospitals nor yet the
morgue had him, and so I commenced to think he had gone back on me. A
telegram come from the coast saying "Great Sunday story bring Rosco
contract follows," but what did I care for that stuff without Jim? Ma
was very silent all this time, and kept in her room a lot, with the door
shut. And then late Monday afternoon the door-bell rung, and my heart
leaped to my feet like it had done at every tinkle for 48 hours, and I
went myself, but it was only Ruby Roselle and Mr. Mulvaney of the
Welcome Home Committee with her! The men that girl knows! Well, she
sees them in another light than I and it's a good thing all tastes don't
run the same. But this was such a surprise I asked them in before I
thought and pretty near forgot my own troubles for a minute.

Ruby cuddled down into her kolinsky wrap and give me the fish-eye, as
she addressed me in her own sweet way as a woman to her best enemy.

"Dearie," she says, tucking in a imaginary curl. "Dear, Johnnie here was
over to my flat and we got speaking of you by accident, and he's anxious
to know where's the money he gave you, and why no decorations as was
intended?"

"Yes, Miss La Tour," says the old bird, which it was plain she had made
a even more perfect fool of him than he had been before. "Yes, Miss La
Tour, it's a serious thing," he says. "I understand you didn't really
call even one meeting and as for decorations--!! Well, what can you tell
us?"

Well, I told him how I come to think of what I thought of, and the jobs
which I had 319 of and the notes and all, and while I talked I could
see plain enough that I was getting in worse every minute, because they
had come determined to find me guilty, and no matter what I said, it
would of listened queer with them two pairs of glassy eyes on me.

"I had a hunch," I wound up, "that maybe something a little substantial
would be welcome," I says, "because after all a person can't live on
plaster arches and paper flowers, and three hundred and nineteen jobs
ought to take care of a considerable percent of the ones that need it,"
I says. "And so while your arches are all right," I says, "you must
admit they are principally for show."

When I got through Mr. Mulvaney cleared his throat and didn't seem to
know just how to go on; but Ruby give him an eye, and so he cleared his
throat again and changed back to her side.

"This is all _most_ irregular," he says very dignified. "Most irregular.
You will certainly have to appear before the general committee and give
them an accounting. What you have done amounts to a misuse of
public-funds!"

My Gawd, I nearly fainted at that! But before I could say a word a
voice spoke up from the doorway.

"Like hell it does!" says Jim, which that dear kid had left himself in
with his key and listened to the whole business. "Like hell it's a
misuse!" he says, coming into the room and putting his arm around me.
"You just let the public and the soldiers take their choice! Give all
the facts to all the newspapers and we will furnish the photographs
free! Go to it! Get busy! And--get out!"

Well, they got, and what happened then I will not go into because there
are things even a self-centered woman won't put on paper! Poor Jim, and
him back in camp to get deloused and demobilized and his tooth-brush,
and a few parting words of appreciation and etc, these past 48 hours
which it seems is the rule for all soldiers, and I suppose they did need
the rest after that parade before taking up domestic life once more.

Well, anyways, that afternoon late, while him and me was thoroughly
enjoying our joint contract and the Sunday spreads with our pictures and
all, in walks Ma with her hat and dolman on and a suit-case in one hand,
and 'Frisco, the he-snake in his box, in the other hand.

"For the love of Mike, Ma Gilligan, where are you going to?" I says,
looking at her idly.

"I'm leaving you forever!" says Ma, in a deep voice.

"Leaving us? Whatter you mean, leaving us?" I says, taking notice and my
head off Jim's shoulder.

"I'm going back to work," says Ma. "I'm not going to be dependent on you
no longer," she says, "nor a burden in my old age," she says. "And now
that you got Jim back I shall only be in the way, so good-by, Gawd bless
you!"

"Why, Ma Gilligan!" I yells, jumping to my feet. "How you talk! Besides
what on earth do you think you could do?"

"Oh, I got a job," she flashes, proudly. "I'm going back to the circus!"

Believe you me, that pretty near had me floored.

"The circus!" I says. "What nonsense! Why a trapezer has to be half your
age to say nothing of weight!"

"I'm not going on no trapeze at my years!" says Ma. "I'm going back as
Fat Lady. One hundred a week and expenses!"

All of a sudden I realized the full meaning of them doughnuts and cocoa
and etc she had eat these past months. She had been deliberately
training and as usual was successful. I sprung to my feet and hung
around Ma's neck like a ten-year-old.

"Oh Ma!" I says. "Don't! Please don't go back! Whatever would we do
without you?" I says. And Jim added his entreaties.

"Why, Ma Gilligan, what bally rot!" he says, which it's quite noticeable
the amount of English he's picked up over there. "What a silly ass you
are, old dear!" he says. "Here we are going to California and who would
cook for us if not you?" he says, "with the cook-question like it is out
there?"

Well, that weakened Ma considerable, for cooking is her middle name. So
she set down the suit-case.

"Ma!" I begged her. "We _couldn't_ have too much of you, and you would
never be in the way or a burden no matter what the scales say. For
heaven's sake take off that hat, it's too young for you, and burden us
with the first home cooking Jim has had in two years!"

Well, she give in at that, and sat down the snake and her dolman and
pocket-book.

"Well, all right then!" she says. "I'll stay!" Which is about all the
emotion Ma ever shows. "Whew, but it's hot in here!" she says and turns
to open the window and we left her do it, because we seen she didn't
want us to notice her tears. And as she opened it she gives a shriek and
leans way over, grabbing at something. And hardly had she yelled than
from below come a holler and a flow of language the like of which I had
never heard, no, not even at the studio when something went wrong! Then
Ma commenced to laugh something hysterical and pulled herself back in
through the window and leaned against the side of it, hollering her head
off.

"What is it?" I says.

"It's Maude!" gasps Ma. "She was shut under the winder and when I opened
it she fell out and lit on Rudie's head which was sitting right
underneath."

Well, we could hardly hear her for the noise in the kitchen. The
dumb-waiter was buzzing like all possessed. I and Jim rushed out and
there, lickety-split, come the dumb-waiter only it was more inarticulate
than dumb by then, and on it the case of Old Home lacking only three
quarts.

"I find your whiskey, Miss La Tour!" says Rudie's voice, very weak and
shagy from below. "I chust find him and send him right away, quick!"

"Thanks old dear!" chortled Jim. "Come up and have a drink on me!"

"No tanks!" yelled Rudie. "I'm leaving this blace right now foreffer!"

Well, we should worry! I turned to Jim, a big load off my mind.

"Jim," I says solemnly. "There is the three hundred and twentieth job!"

THE END

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

Varied spelling, hyphenation and dialect is as in the original.





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