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Title: Excuse Me!
Author: Hughes, Rupert, 1872-1956
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 "Excuse Me!" ***

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produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)



Transcriber's Note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  The book uses both "Doc." and "Doc".

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.



EXCUSE ME!

  [Illustration]



     EXCUSE ME!

     _By_ RUPERT HUGHES
     Author of "The Old Nest"

     WITH FIVE ILLUSTRATIONS

     A. L. BURT COMPANY
     PUBLISHERS     NEW YORK



     Copyright, 1911, by
     THE H. K. FLY COMPANY



CONTENTS


     CHAPTER                                   PAGE

     I.       The Wreck of the Taxicab            9

     II.      The Early Birds and the Worm       16

     III.     In Darkest Chicago                 26

     IV.      A Mouse and a Mountain             35

     V.       A Queen Among Women                47

     VI.      A Conspiracy in Satin              53

     VII.     The Masked Minister                60

     VIII.    A Mixed Pickle                     65

     IX.      All Aboard!                        75

     X.       Excess Baggage                     84

     XI.      A Chance Rencounter                88

     XII.     The Needle in the Haystack         92

     XIII.    Hostilities Begin                  99

     XIV.     The Dormitory on Wheels           103

     XV.      A Premature Divorce               106

     XVI.     Good Night, All!                  115

     XVII.    Last Call for Breakfast           122

     XVIII.   In the Composite Car              128

     XIX.     Foiled!                           139

     XX.      Foiled Again!                     142

     XXI.     Matrimony To and Fro              147

     XXII.    In the Smoking Room               156

     XXIII    Through a Tunnel                  164

     XXIV.    The Train Butcher                 173

     XXV.     The Train Wrecker                 180

     XXVI.    Delilah and the Conductor         186

     XXVII.   The Dog-on Dog Again              191

     XXVIII.  The Woman-Hater's Relapse         203

     XXIX.    Jealousy Comes Aboard             213

     XXX.     A Wedding on Wheels               222

     XXXI.    Foiled Yet Again                  227

     XXXII.   The Empty Berth                   233

     XXXIII.  Fresh Trouble Daily               237

     XXXIV.   The Complete Divorcer             252

     XXXV.    Mr. and Mrs. Little Jimmie        266

     XXXVI.   A Duel for a Bracelet             273

     XXXVII.  Down Brakes!                      278

     XXXVIII. Hands Up!                         284

     XXXIX.   Wolves in the Fold                296

     XL.      A Hero in Spite of Himself        304

     XLI.     Clickety-Clickety-Clickety        308



ILLUSTRATIONS


     No tips were to be expected from such
     transients                             _Frontispiece_

                                                     PAGE

     "Now it's my vacation, and I'm going to smoke
     up"                                               62

     Marjorie fairly forced the dog on him             94

     Down upon the unsuspecting elopers came this
     miraculous cloudburst of ironical rice           118

     "Why, Richard--Chauncey!--er--Billy! I'm
     amazed at you! Let go, or I'll scream!"          276



EXCUSE ME!



CHAPTER I

THE WRECK OF THE TAXICAB


The young woman in the taxicab scuttling frantically down the dark
street, clung to the arm of the young man alongside, as if she were
terrified at the lawbreaking, neck-risking speed. But evidently some
greater fear goaded her, for she gasped:

"Can't he go a little faster?"

"Can't you go a little faster?" The young man alongside howled as he
thrust his head and shoulders through the window in the door.

But the self-created taxi-gale swept his voice aft, and the taut
chauffeur perked his ear in vain to catch the vanishing syllables.

"What's that?" he roared.

"Can't you go a little faster?"

The indignant charioteer simply had to shoot one barbed glare of
reproach into that passenger. He turned his head and growled:

"Say, do youse want to lose me me license?"

For just one instant he turned his head. One instant was just enough.
The unguarded taxicab seized the opportunity, bolted from the track,
and flung, as it were, its arms drunkenly around a perfectly
respectable lamppost attending strictly to its business on the curb.
There ensued a condensed Fourth of July. Sparks flew, tires exploded,
metals ripped, two wheels spun in air and one wheel, neatly severed at
the axle, went reeling down the sidewalk half a block before it leaned
against a tree and rested.

A dozen or more miracles coincided to save the passengers from injury.
The young man found himself standing on the pavement with the unhinged
door still around his neck. The young woman's arms were round his
neck. Her head was on his shoulder. It had reposed there often enough,
but never before in the street under a lamppost. The chauffeur found
himself in the road, walking about on all fours, like a bewildered
quadruped.

Evidently some overpowering need for speed possessed the young woman,
for even now she did not scream, she did not faint, she did not
murmur, "Where am I?" She simply said:

"What time is it, honey?"

And the young man, not realizing how befuddled he really was, or how
his hand trembled, fetched out his watch and held it under the glow of
the lamppost, which was now bent over in a convenient but disreputable
attitude.

"A quarter to ten, sweetheart. Plenty of time for the train."

"But the minister, honey! What about the minister? How are we going to
get to the minister?"

The consideration of this riddle was interrupted by a muffled hubbub
of yelps, whimpers, and canine hysterics. Immediately the young woman
forgot ministers, collisions, train-schedules--everything. She showed
her first sign of panic.

"Snoozleums! Get Snoozleums!"

They groped about in the topsy-turvy taxicab, rummaged among a jumble
of suitcases, handbags, umbrellas and minor _impedimenta_, and fished
out a small dog-basket with an inverted dog inside. Snoozleums was
ridiculous in any position, but as he slid tail foremost from the
wicker basket, he resembled nothing so much as a heap of tangled yarn
tumbling out of a work-basket. He was an indignant skein, and had much
to say before he consented to snuggle under his mistress' chin.

About this time the chauffeur came prowling into view. He was too
deeply shocked to emit any language of the garage. He was too deeply
shocked to achieve any comment more brilliant than:

"That mess don't look much like it ever was a taxicab, does it?"

The young man shrugged his shoulders, and stared up and down the long
street for another. The young woman looked sorrowfully at the wreck,
and queried:

"Do you think you can make it go?"

The chauffeur glanced her way, more in pity for her whole sex than in
scorn for this one type, as he mumbled:

"Make it go? It'll take a steam winch a week to unwrap it from that
lamppost."

The young man apologized.

"I oughtn't to have yelled at you."

He was evidently a very nice young man. Not to be outdone in courtesy,
the chauffeur retorted:

"I hadn't ought to have turned me head."

The young woman thought, "What a nice chauffeur!" but she gasped:
"Great heavens, you're hurt!"

"It's nuttin' but a scratch on me t'umb."

"Lend me a clean handkerchief, Harry."

The young man whipped out his reserve supply, and in a trice it was a
bandage on the chauffeur's hand. The chauffeur decided that the young
woman was even nicer than the young man. But he could not settle on a
way to say to it. So he said nothing, and grinned sheepishly as he
said it.

The young man named Harry was wondering how they were to proceed. He
had already studied the region with dismay, when the girl resolved:

"We'll have to take another taxi, Harry."

"Yes, Marjorie, but we can't take it till we get it."

"You might wait here all night wit'out ketchin' a glimp' of one," the
chauffeur ventured. "I come this way because you wanted me to take a
short cut."

"It's the longest short cut I ever saw," the young man sighed, as he
gazed this way and that.

The place of their shipwreck was so deserted that not even a crowd had
gathered. The racket of the collision had not brought a single
policeman. They were in a dead world of granite warehouses, wholesale
stores and factories, all locked and forbidding, and full of silent
gloom.

In the daytime this was a big trade-artery of Chicago, and all day
long it was thunderous with trucks and commerce. At night it was
Pompeii, so utterly abandoned that the night watchmen rarely slept
outside, and no footpad found it worth while to set up shop.

The three castaways stared every which way, and every which way was
peace. The ghost of a pedestrian or two hurried by in the far
distance. A cat or two went furtively in search of warfare or romance.
The lampposts stretched on and on in both directions in two forevers.

In the faraway there was a muffled rumble and the faint clang of a
bell. Somewhere a street car was bumping along its rails.

"Our only hope," said Harry. "Come along, Marjorie."

He handed the chauffeur five dollars as a poultice to his wounds,
tucked the girl under one arm and the dog-basket under the other, and
set out, calling back to the chauffeur:

"Good night!"

"Good night!" the girl called back.

"Good night!" the chauffeur echoed. He stood watching them with the
tender gaze that even a chauffeur may feel for young love hastening to
a honeymoon.

He stood beaming so, till their footsteps died in the silence. Then he
turned back to the chaotic remnants of his machine. He worked at it
hopelessly for some time, before he had reason to look within. There
he found the handbags and suitcases, umbrellas and other equipment. He
ran to the corner to call after the owners. They were as absent of
body as they had been absent of mind.

He remembered the street-number they had given him as their
destination. He waited till at last a yawning policeman sauntered that
way like a lonely beach patrol, and left him in charge while he went
to telephone his garage for a wagon and a wrecking crew.

It was close on midnight before he reached the number his fares had
given him. It was a parsonage leaning against a church. He rang the
bell and finally produced from an upper window a nightshirt topped by
a frowsy head. He explained the situation, and his possession of
certain properties belonging to parties unknown except by their first
names. The clergyman drowsily murmured:

"Oh, yes. I remember. The young man was Lieutenant Henry Mallory, and
he said he would stop here with a young lady, and get married on the
way to the train. But they never turned up."

"Lieutenant Mallory, eh? Where could I reach him?"

"He said he was leaving to-night for the Philippines."

"The Philippines! Well, I'll be----"

The minister closed the window just in time.



CHAPTER II

THE EARLY BIRDS AND THE WORM


In the enormous barn of the railroad station stood many strings of
cars, as if a gigantic young Gulliver stabled his toys there and
invisibly amused himself; now whisking this one away, now backing that
other in.

Some of the trains were noble equipages, fitted to glide across the
whole map with cargoes of Lilliputian millionaires and their
Lilliputian ladies. Others were humble and shabby linked-up
day-coaches and dingy smoking-cars, packed with workers, like ants.

Cars are mere vehicles, but locomotives have souls. The express
engines roll in or stalk out with grandeur and ease. They are like
emperors. They seem to look with scorn at the suburban engines
snorting and grunting and shaking the arched roof with their plebeian
choo-choo as they puff from shop to cottage and back.

The trainmen take their cue from the behavior of their locomotives.
The conductor of a transcontinental nods to the conductor of a
shuttle-train with less cordiality than to a brakeman of his own. The
engineers of the limiteds look like senators in overalls. They are
far-traveled men, leading a mighty life of adventure. They are pilots
of land-ships across land-oceans. They have a right to a certain
condescension of manner.

But no one feels or shows so much arrogance as the sleeping car
porters. They cannot pronounce "supercilious," but they can be it.
Their disdain for the entire crew of any train that carries merely
day-coaches or half-baked chair-cars, is expressed as only a darkey in
a uniform can express disdain for poor white trash.

Of all the haughty porters that ever curled a lip, the haughtiest by
far was the dusky attendant in the San Francisco sleeper on the
Trans-American Limited. His was the train of trains in that whole
system. His car the car of cars. His passengers the surpassengers of
all.

His train stood now waiting to set forth upon a voyage of two thousand
miles, a journey across seven imperial States, a journey that should
end only at that marge where the continent dips and vanishes under the
breakers of the Pacific Ocean.

At the head of his car, with his little box-step waiting for the foot
of the first arrival, the porter stood, his head swelling under his
cap, his breast swelling beneath his blue blouse, with its brass
buttons like reflections of his own eyes. His name was Ellsworth
Jefferson, but he was called anything from "Poarr-turr" to "Pawtah,"
and he usually did not come when he was called.

To-night he was wondering perhaps what passengers, with what
dispositions, would fall to his lot. Perhaps he was wondering what his
Chicago sweetheart would be doing in the eight days before his return.
Perhaps he was wondering what his San Francisco sweetheart had been
doing in the five days since he left her, and how she would pass the
three days that must intervene before he reached her again.

He had Othello's ebon color. Did he have Othello's green eye?

Whatever his thoughts, he chatted gaily enough with his neighbor and
colleague of the Portland sleeper.

Suddenly he stopped in the midst of a soaring chuckle.

"Lordy, man, looky what's a-comin'!"

The Portland porter turned to gaze.

"I got my fingers crossed."

"I hope you git him."

"I hope I don't."

"He'll work you hard and cuss you out, and he won't give you even a
Much Obliged."

"That's right. He ain't got a usher to carry his things. And he's got
enough to fill a van."

The oncomer was plainly of English origin. It takes all sorts of
people to make up the British Empire, and there is no sort
lacking--glorious or pretty, or sour or sweet. But this was the type
of English globe-trotter that makes himself as unpopular among
foreigners as he is among his own people. He is almost as unendurable
as the Americans abroad who twang their banjo brag through Europe, and
berate France and Italy for their innocence of buckwheat cakes.

The two porters regarded Mr. Harold Wedgewood with dread, as he bore
down on them. He was almost lost in the plethora of his own luggage.
He asked for the San Francisco sleeper, and the Portland porter had to
turn away to smother his gurgling relief.

Ellsworth Jefferson's heart sank. He made a feeble effort at
self-protection. The Pullman conductor not being present at the
moment, he inquired:

"Have you got yo' ticket?"

"Of cawse."

"Could I see it?"

"Of cawse not. Too much trouble to fish it out."

The porter was fading. "Do you remember yo' numba?"

"Of cawse. Take these." He began to pile things on the porter like a
mountain unloading an avalanche. The porter stumbled as he clambered
up the steps, and squeezed through the strait path of the corridor
into the slender aisle. He turned again and again to question the
invader, but he was motioned and bunted down the car, till he was
halted with a "This will do."

The Englishman selected section three for his own. The porter
ventured: "Are you sho' this is yo' numba?"

"Of cawse I'm shaw. How dare you question my----"

"I wasn't questionin' you, boss, I was just astin' you."

He resigned himself to the despot, and began to transfer his burdens
to the seat. But he did nothing to the satisfaction of the Englishman.
Everything must be placed otherwise; the catch-all here, the
portmanteau there, the Gladstone there, the golfsticks there, the
greatcoat there, the raincoat there. The porter was puffing like a
donkey-engine, and mutiny was growing in his heart. His last
commission was the hanging up of the bowler hat.

He stood on the arm of the seat to reach the high hook. From here he
paused to glare down with an attempt at irony.

"Is they anything else?"

"No. You may get down."

The magnificent patronage of this wilted the porter completely. He
returned to the lower level, and shuffled along the aisle in a trance.
He was quickly recalled by a sharp:

"Pawtah!"

"Yassah!"

"What time does this bally train start?"

"Ten-thutty, sah."

"But it's only ten now."

"Yassah. It'll be ten-thutty a little later."

"Do you mean to tell me that I've got to sit hyah for half an
hour--just waitin'?"

The porter essayed another bit of irony:

"Well," he drawled, "I might tell the conducta you're ready. And mebbe
he'd start the train. But the time-table says ten-thutty."

He watched the effect of his satire, but it fell back unheeded from
the granite dome of the Englishman, whose only comment was:

"Oh, never mind. I'll wait."

The porter cast his eyes up in despair, and turned away, once more to
be recalled.

"Oh, pawtah!"

"Yassah!"

"I think we'll put on my slippahs."

"Will we?"

"You might hand me that large bag. No, stupid, the othah one. You
might open it. No, its in the othah one. Ah, that's it. You may set it
down."

Mr. Wedgewood brought forth a soft cap and a pair of red slippers. The
porter made another effort to escape, his thoughts as black as his
face. Again the relentless recall:

"Oh, pawtah, I think we'll unbutton my boots."

He was too weak to murmur "Yassah." He simply fell on one knee and got
to work.

There was a witness to his helpless rage--a newcomer, the American
counterpart of the Englishman in all that makes travel difficult for
the fellow travelers. Ira Lathrop was zealous to resent anything short
of perfection, quick and loud of complaint, apparently impossible to
please.

In everything else he was the opposite of the Englishman. He was
burly, middle-aged, rough, careless in attire, careless of speech--as
uncouth and savage as one can well be who is plainly a man of means.

It was not enough that a freeborn Afro-American should be caught
kneeling to an Englishman. But when he had escaped this penance, and
advanced hospitably to the newcomer, he must be greeted with a snarl.

"Say, are you the porter of this car, or that man's nurse?"

"I can't tell yet. What's yo' numba, please?"

The answer was the ticket. The porter screwed up his eyes to read the
pencilled scrawl.

"Numba se'm. Heah she is, boss."

"Right next to a lot of women, I'll bet. Couldn't you put me in the
men's end of the car?"

"Not ve'y well, suh. I reckon the cah is done sold out."

With a growl of rage, Ira Lathrop slammed into the seat his entire
hand baggage, one ancient and rusty valise.

The porter gazed upon him with increased depression. The passenger
list had opened inauspiciously with two of the worst types of
travelers the Anglo-Saxon race has developed.

But their anger was not their worst trait in the porter's eyes. He
was, in a limited way, an expert in human character.

When you meet a stranger you reveal your own character in what you ask
about his. With some, the first question is, "Who are his people?"
With others, "What has he achieved?" With others, "How much is he
worth?" Each gauges his cordiality according to his estimate.

The porter was not curious on any of these points. He showed a
democratic indifference to them. His one vital inquiry was:

"How much will he tip?"

His inspection of his first two charges promised small returns. He
buttoned up his cordiality, and determined to waste upon them the
irreducible minimum of attention.

It would take at least a bridal couple to restore the balance. But
bridal couples in their first bloom rarely fell to the lot of that
porter, for what bridal couple wants to lock itself in with a crowd
of passengers for the first seventy-two hours of wedded bliss?

The porter banished the hope as a vanity. Little he knew how eagerly
the young castaways from that wrecked taxicab desired to be a bridal
couple, and to catch this train.

But the Englishman was restive again:

"Pawtah! I say, pawtah!"

"Yassah!"

"What time are we due in San Francisco?"

"San Francisco? San Francisco? We are doo thah the evenin' of the
fo'th day. This bein' Monday, that ought to bring us in abote Thuzzday
evenin'."

The Yankee felt called upon to check the foreign usurper.

"Porrterr!"

"Yassah!"

"Don't let that fellow monopolize you. He probably won't tip you at
all."

The porter grew confidential:

"Oh, I know his kind, sah. They don't tip you for what you do do, but
they're ready letter writers to the Sooperintendent for what you don't
do."

"Pawtah! I say, pawtah!"

"Here, porrterr."

The porter tried to imitate the Irish bird, and be in two places at
once. The American had a coin in his hand. The porter caught the
gleam of it, and flitted thither. The Yankee growled:

"Don't forget that I'm on the train, and when we get to 'Frisco there
may be something more."

The porter had the coin in his hand. Its heft was light. He sighed: "I
hope so."

The Englishman was craning his head around owlishly to ask:

"I say, pawtah, does this train ever get wrecked?"

"Well, it hasn't yet," and he murmured to the Yankee, "but I has
hopes."

The Englishman's voice was querulous again.

"I say, pawtah, open a window, will you? The air is ghastly,
abso-ripping-lutely ghastly."

The Yankee growled:

"No wonder we had the Revolutionary War!"

Then he took from his pocket an envelope addressed to Ira Lathrop &
Co., and from the envelope he took a contract, and studied it grimly.
The envelope bore a Chinese stamp.

The porter, as he struggled with an obstinate window, wondered what
sort of passenger fate would send him next.



CHAPTER III

IN DARKEST CHICAGO


The castaways from the wrecked taxicab hurried along the doleful
street. Both of them knew their Chicago, but this part of it was not
their Chicago.

They hailed a pedestrian, to ask where the nearest street car line
might be, and whither it might run. He answered indistinctly from a
discreet distance, as he hastened away. Perhaps he thought their
question merely a footpad's introduction to a sandbagging episode. In
Chicago at night one never knows.

"As near as I can make out what he said, Marjorie," the lieutenant
pondered aloud, "we walk straight ahead till we come to Umtyump
Street, and there we find a Rarara car that will take us to Bloptyblop
Avenue. I never heard of any such streets, did you?"

"Never," she panted, as she jog-trotted alongside his military pace.
"Let's take the first car we meet, and perhaps the conductor can put
us off at the street where the minister lives."

"Perhaps." There was not much confidence in that "perhaps."

When they reached the street-carred street, they found two tracks, but
nothing occupying them, as far as they could peer either way. A small
shopkeeper in a tiny shop proved to be a delicatessen merchant so
busily selling foreign horrors to aliens, that they learned nothing
from him.

At length, in the far-away, they made out a headlight, and heard the
grind and squeal of a car. Lieutenant Mallory waited for it, watch in
hand. He boosted Marjorie's elbow aboard and bombarded the conductor
with questions. But the conductor had no more heard of their street
than they had of his. Their agitation did not disturb his stoic calm,
but he invited them to come along to the next crossing, where they
could find another car and more learned conductors; or, what promised
better, perhaps a cab.

He threw Marjorie into a panic by ordering her to jettison Snoozleums,
but the lieutenant bought his soul for a small price, and overlooked
the fact that he did not ring up their fares.

The young couple squeezed into a seat and talked anxiously in sharp
whispers.

"Wouldn't it be terrible, Harry, if, just as we got to the minister's,
we should find papa there ahead of us, waiting to forbid the bands, or
whatever it is? Wouldn't it be just terrible?"

"Yes, it would, honey, but it doesn't seem probable. There are
thousands of ministers in Chicago. He could never find ours. Fact is.
I doubt if we find him ourselves."

Her clutch tightened till he would have winced, if he had not been a
soldier.

"What do you mean, Harry?"

"Well, in the first place, honey, look what time it is. Hardly more
than time enough to get the train, to say nothing of hunting for that
preacher and standing up through a long rigmarole."

"Why, Harry Mallory, are you getting ready to jilt me?"

"Indeed I'm not--not for worlds, honey, but I've got to get that
train, haven't I?"

"Couldn't you wait over one train--just one tiny little train?"

"My own, own honey love, you know it's impossible! You must remember
that I've already waited over three trains while you tried to make up
your mind."

"And you must remember, darling, that it's no easy matter for a girl
to decide to sneak away from home and be married secretly, and go all
the way out to that hideous Manila with no trousseau and no wedding
presents and no anything."

"I know it isn't, and I waited patiently while you got up the courage.
But now there are no more trains. I shudder to think of this train
being late. We're not due in San Francisco till Thursday evening, and
my transport sails at sunrise Friday morning. Oh, Lord, what if I
should miss that transport! What if I should!"

"What if we should miss the minister?"

"It begins to look a great deal like it."

"But, Harry, you wouldn't desert me now--abandon me to my fate?"

"Well, it isn't exactly like abandonment, seeing that you could go
home to your father and mother in a taxicab."

She stared at him in horror.

"So you don't want me for your wife! You've changed your mind! You're
tired of me already! Only an hour together, and you're sick of your
bargain! You're anxious to get rid of me! You----"

"Oh, honey, I want you more than anything else on earth, but I'm a
soldier, dearie, a mere lieutenant in the regular army, and I'm the
slave of the Government. I've gone through West Point, and they won't
let me resign respectably and if I did, we'd starve. They wouldn't
accept my resignation, but they'd be willing to courtmartial me and
dismiss me the service in disgrace. Then you wouldn't want to marry
me--and I shouldn't have any way of supporting you if you did. I only
know one trade, and that's soldiering."

"Don't call it a trade, beloved, it's the noblest profession in all
the world, and you're the noblest soldier that ever was, and in a year
or two you'll be the biggest general in the army."

He could not afford to shatter such a devout illusion or quench the
light of faith in those beloved and loving eyes. He tacitly admitted
his ability to be promoted commander-in-chief in a year or two. He
allowed that glittering possibility to remain, used it as a basis for
argument.

"Then, dearest, you must help me to do my duty."

She clasped his upper arm as if it were an altar and she an Iphigenia
about to be sacrificed to save the army. And she murmured with utter
heroism:

"I will! Do what you like with me!"

He squeezed her hand between his biceps and his ribs and accepted the
offering in a look drenched with gratitude. Then he said,
matter-of-factly:

"We'll see how much time we have when we get to--whatever the name of
that street is."

The car jolted and wailed on its way like an old drifting rocking
chair. The motorman was in no hurry. The passengers seemed to have no
occasion for haste. Somebody got on or got off at almost every corner,
and paused for conversation while the car waited patiently. But
eventually the conductor put his head in and drawled:

"Hay! here's where you get off at."

They hastened to debark and found themselves in a narrow,
gaudily-lighted region where they saw a lordly transfer-distributor, a
profound scholar in Chicago streets. He informed them that the
minister's street lay far back along the path they had come; they
should have taken a car in the opposite direction, transferred at some
remote center, descended at some unheard-of street, walked three
blocks one way and four another, and there they would have been.

Mallory looked at his watch, and Marjorie's hopes dropped like a
wrecked aeroplane, for he grimly asked how long it would take them to
reach the railroad station.

"Well, you'd ought to make it in forty minutes," the transfer agent
said--and added, cynically, "if the car makes schedule."

"Good Lord, the train starts in twenty minutes!"

"Well, I tell you--take this here green car to Wexford Avenoo--there's
usually a taxicab or two standin' there."

"Thank you. Hop on, Marjorie."

Marjorie hopped on, and they sat down, Mallory with eyes and thoughts
on nothing but the watch he kept in his hand.

During this tense journey the girl perfected her soul for graceful
martyrdom.

"I'll go to the train with you, Harry, and then you can send me home
in a taxicab."

Her nether lip trembled and her eyes were filmed, but they were brave,
and her voice was so tender that it wooed his mind from his watch. He
gazed at her, and found her so dear, so devoted and so pitifully
exquisite, that he was almost overcome by an impulse to gather her
into his arms there and then, indifferent to the immediate passengers
or to his far-off military superiors. An hour ago they were young
lovers in all the lilt and thrill of elopement. She had clung to him
in the gloaming of their taxicab, as it sped like a genie at their
whim to the place where the minister would unite their hands and raise
his own in blessing. Thence the new husband would have carried the new
wife away, his very own, soul and body, duty and beauty. Then, ah,
then in their minds the future was an unwaning honeymoon, the journey
across the continent a stroll along a lover's lane, the Pacific ocean
a garden lake, and the Philippines a chain of Fortunate Isles decreed
especially for their Eden. And then the taxicab encountered a
lamppost. They thought they had merely wrecked a motor car--and lo,
they had wrecked a Paradise.

The railroad ceased to be a lover's lane and became a lingering
torment; the ocean was a weltering Sahara, and the Philippines a Dry
Tortugas of exile.

Mallory realized for the first time what heavy burdens he had taken on
with his shoulder straps; what a dismal life of restrictions and
hardships an officer's life is bound to be. It was hard to obey the
soulless machinery of discipline, to be a brass-buttoned slave. He
felt all the hot, quick resentment that turns a faithful soldier into
a deserter. But it takes time to evolve a deserter, and Mallory had
only twenty minutes. The handcuffs and leg-irons of discipline hobbled
him. He was only a little cog in a great clock, and the other wheels
were impinging on him and revolving in spite of himself.

In the close-packed seats where they were jostled and stared at, the
soldier could not even attempt to explain to his fascinated bride the
war of motives in his breast. He could not voice the passionate
rebellion her beauty had whipped up in his soul. Perhaps if Romeo and
Juliet had been forced to say farewell on a Chicago street car instead
of a Veronese balcony, their language would have lacked savor, too.

Perhaps young Mr. Montague and young Miss Capulet, instead of wailing,
"No, that is not the lark whose notes do beat the vaulty heaven so
high above our heads," would have done no better than Mr. Mallory and
Miss Newton. In any case, the best these two could squeeze out was:

"It's just too bad, honey."

"But I guess it can't be helped, dear."

"It's a mean old world, isn't it?"

"Awful!"

And then they must pile out into the street again so lost in woe that
they did not know how they were trampled or elbowed. Marjorie's
despair was so complete that it paralyzed instinct. She forgot
Snoozleums! A thoughtful passenger ran out and tossed the basket into
Mallory's arms even as the car moved off.

Fortune relented a moment and they found a taxicab waiting where they
had expected to find it. Once more they were cosy in the flying
twilight, but their grief was their only baggage, and the clasp of
their hands talked all the talk there was.

Anxiety within anxiety tormented them and they feared another wreck.
But as they swooped down upon the station, a kind-faced tower clock
beamed the reassurance that they had three minutes to spare.

The taxicab drew up and halted, but they did not get out. They were
kissing good-byes, fervidly and numerously, while a grinning
station-porter winked at the winking chauffeur.

Marjorie simply could not have done with farewells.

"I'll go to the gate with you," she said.

He told the chauffeur to wait and take the young lady home. The
lieutenant looked so honest and the girl so sad that the chauffeur
simply touched his cap, though it was not his custom to allow strange
fares to vanish into crowded stations, leaving behind nothing more
negotiable than instructions to wait.



CHAPTER IV

A MOUSE AND A MOUNTAIN


All the while the foiled elopers were eloping, the San Francisco
sleeper was filling up. It had been the receptacle of assorted lots of
humanity tumbling into it from all directions, with all sorts of
souls, bodies, and destinations.

The porter received each with that expert eye of his. His car was his
laboratory. A railroad journey is a sort of test-tube of character;
strange elements meet under strange conditions and make strange
combinations. The porter could never foresee the ingredients of any
trip, nor their actions and reactions.

He had no sooner established Mr. Wedgewood of London and Mr. Ira
Lathrop of Chicago, in comparative repose, than his car was invaded by
a woman who flung herself into the first seat. She was flushed with
running, and breathing hard, but she managed one gasp of relief:

"Thank goodness, I made it in time."

The mere sound of a woman's voice in the seat back of him was enough
to disperse Ira Lathrop. With not so much as a glance backward to see
what manner of woman it might be, he jammed his contract into his
pocket, seized his newspapers and retreated to the farthest end of the
car, jouncing down into berth number one, like a sullen snapping
turtle.

Miss Anne Gattle's modest and homely valise had been brought aboard by
a leisurely station usher, who set it down and waited with a speaking
palm outstretched. She had her tickets in her hand, but transferred
them to her teeth while she searched for money in a handbag old
fashioned enough to be called a reticule.

The usher closed his fist on the pittance she dropped into it and
departed without comment. The porter advanced on her with a demand for
"Tickets, please."

She began to ransack her reticule with flurried haste, taking out of
it a small purse, opening that, closing it, putting it back, taking it
out, searching the reticule through, turning out a handkerchief, a few
hairpins, a few trunk keys, a baggage check, a bottle of salts, a card
or two and numerous other maidenly articles, restoring them to place,
looking in the purse again, restoring that, closing the reticule,
setting it down, shaking out a book she carried, opening her old
valise, going through certain white things blushingly, closing it
again, shaking her skirts, and shaking her head in bewilderment.

She was about to open the reticule again, when the porter exclaimed:

"I see it! Don't look no mo'. I see it!"

When she cast up her eyes in despair, her hatbrim had been elevated
enough to disclose the whereabouts of the tickets. With a murmured
apology, he removed them from her teeth and held them under the light.
After a time he said:

"As neah as I can make out from the--the undigested po'tion of this
ticket, yo' numba is six."

"That's it--six!"

"That's right up this way."

"Let me sit here till I get my breath," she pleaded, "I ran so hard to
catch the train."

"Well, you caught it good and strong."

"I'm so glad. How soon do we start?"

"In about half a houah."

"Really? Well, better half an hour too soon than half a minute too
late." She said it with such a copy-book primness that the porter set
her down as a school-teacher. It was not a bad guess. She was a
missionary. With a pupil-like shyness he volunteered:

"Yo' berth is all ready whenever you wishes to go to baid." He caught
her swift blush and amended it to--"to retiah."

"Retire?--before all the car?" said Miss Anne Gattle, with prim
timidity. "No, thank you! I intend to sit up till everybody else has
retired."

The porter retired. Miss Gattle took out a bit of more or less useful
fancy stitching and set to work like another Dorcas. Her needle had
not dived in and emerged many times before she was holding it up as a
weapon of defense against a sudden human mountain that threatened to
crush her.

A vague round face, huge and red as a rising moon, dawned before her
eyes and from it came an uncertain voice:

"Esscuzhe me, mad'm, no 'fensh intended."

The words and the breath that carried them gave the startled spinster
an instant proof that her vis-à-vis did not share her Prohibition
principles or practices. She regarded the elephant with mouselike
terror, and the elephant regarded the mouse with elephantine fright,
then he removed himself from her landscape as quickly as he could and
lurched along the aisle, calling out merrily to the porter:

"Chauffeur! chauffeur! don't go so fasht 'round these corners."

He collided with a small train-boy singing his nasal lay, but it was
the behemoth and not the train-boy that collapsed into a seat,
sprawling as helplessly as a mammoth oyster on a table-cloth.

The porter rushed to his aid and hoisted him to his feet with an
uneasy sense of impending trouble. He felt as if someone had left a
monstrous baby on his doorstep, but all he said was:

"Tickets, please."

There ensued a long search, fat, flabby hands flopping and fumbling
from pocket to pocket. Once more the porter was the discoverer.

"I see it. Don't look no mo'. Here it is--up in yo' hatband." He
lifted it out and chuckled. "Had it right next his brains and couldn't
rememba!" He took up the appropriately huge luggage of the bibulous
wanderer and led him to the other end of the aisle.

"Numba two is yours, sah. Right heah--all nice and cosy, and already
made up."

The big man looked through the curtains into the cabined confinement,
and groaned:

"That! Haven't you got a man's size berth?"

"Sorry, sah. That's as big a bunk as they is on the train."

"Have I got to be locked up in that pigeon-hole for--for how many days
is it to Reno?"

"Reno?" The porter greeted that meaningful name with a smile. "We're
doo in Reno the--the--the mawnin' of the fo'th day, sah. Yassah." He
put the baggage down and started away, but the sad fat man seized his
hand, with great emotion:

"Don't leave me all alone in there, porter, for I'm a broken-hearted
man."

"Is that so? Too bad, sah."

"Were you ever a broken-hearted man, porter?"

"Always, sah."

"Did you ever put your trust in a false-hearted woman?"

"Often, sah."

"Was she ever true to you, porter?"

"Never, sah."

"Porter, we are partners in mis-sis-ery."

And he wrung the rough, black hand with a solemnity that embarrassed
the porter almost as much as it would have embarrassed the passenger
himself if he could have understood what he was doing. The porter
disengaged himself with a patient but hasty:

"I'm afraid you'll have to 'scuse me. I got to he'p the other
passengers on bode."

"Don't let me keep you from your duty. Duty is the--the----" But he
could not remember what duty was, and he would have dropped off to
sleep, if he had not been startled by a familiar voice which the
porter had luckily escaped.

"Pawtah! Pawtah! Can't you raise this light--or rather can't you lower
it? Pawtah! This light is so infernally dim I can't read."

To the Englishman's intense amazement his call brought to him not the
porter, but a rising moon with the profound query:

"Whass a li'l thing like dim light, when the light of your life has
gone out?"

"I beg your pardon?"

Without further invitation, the mammoth descended on the Englishman's
territory.

"I'm a broken-hearted man, Mr.--Mr.--I didn't get your name."

"Er--ah--I dare say."

"Thanks, I will sit down." He lifted a great carry-all and airily
tossed it into the aisle, set the Gladstone on the lap of the
infuriated Englishman, and squeezed into the seat opposite, making a
sad mix-up of knees.

"My name's Wellington. Ever hear of li'l Jimmie Wellington? That's
me."

"Any relation to the Duke?"

"Nagh!"

He no longer interested Mr. Wedgewood. But Mr. Wellington was not
aware that he was being snubbed. He went right on getting acquainted:

"Are you married, Mr.--Mr.----?"

"No!"

"My heartfelt congrashlations. Hang on to your luck, my boy. Don't let
any female take it away from you." He slapped the Englishman on the
elbow amiably, and his prisoner was too stifled with wrath to emit
more than one feeble "Pawtah!"

Mr. Wellington mused on aloud: "Oh, if I had only remained shingle.
But she was so beautiful and she swore to love, honor and obey. Mrs.
Wellington is a queen among women, mind you, and I have nothing to say
against her except that she has the temper of a tarantula." He
italicized the word with a light fillip of his left hand along the
back of the seat. He did not notice that he filliped the angry head of
Mr. Ira Lathrop in the next seat. He went on with his portrait of his
wife. "She has the 'stravaganza of a sultana"--another fillip for Mr.
Lathrop--"the zhealousy of a cobra, the flirtatiousness of a humming
bird." Mr. Lathrop was glaring round like a man-eating tiger, but
Wellington talked on. "She drinks, swears, and smokes cigars,
otherwise she's fine--a queen among women."

Neither this amazing vision of womankind, nor this beautiful example
of longing for confession and sympathy awakened a response in the
Englishman's frozen bosom. His only action was another violent effort
to disengage his cramped knees from the knees of his tormentor; his
only comment a vain and weakening cry for help, "Pawtah! Pawtah!"

Wellington's bleary, teary eyes were lighted with triumph. "Finally I
saw I couldn't stand it any longer so I bought a tic-hic-et to Reno. I
'stablish a residensh in six monfths--get a divorce--no shcandal. Even
m'own wife won't know anything about it."

The Englishman was almost attracted by this astounding picture of the
divorce laws in America. It sounded so barbarically quaint that he
leaned forward to hear more, but Mr. Wellington's hand, like a
mischievous runaway, had wandered back into the shaggy locks atop of
Mr. Lathrop. His right hand did not let his left know what it was
doing, but proceeded quite independently to grip as much of Lathrop's
hair as it would hold.

Then as Mr. Wellington shook with joy at the prospect of "Dear old
Reno!" he began unconsciously to draw Ira Lathrop's head after his
hair across the seat. The pain of it shot the tears into Lathrop's
eyes, and as he writhed and twisted he was too full of profanity to
get any one word out.

When he managed to wrench his skull free, he was ready to murder his
tormentor. But as soon as he confronted the doddering and blinking
toper, he was helpless. Drunken men have always been treated with
great tenderness in America, and when Wellington, seeing Lathrop's
white hair, exclaimed with rapture: "Why, hello, Pop! here's Pop!" the
most that Lathrop could do was to tear loose those fat, groping hands,
slap them like a school teacher, and push the man away.

But that one shove upset Mr. Wellington and sent him toppling down
upon the pit of the Englishman's stomach.

For Wedgewood, it was suddenly as if all the air had been removed from
the world. He gulped like a fish drowning for lack of water. He was a
long while getting breath enough for words, but his first words were
wild demands that Mr. Wellington remove himself forthwith.

Wellington accepted the banishment with the sorrowful eyes of a dying
deer, and tottered away wagging his fat head and wailing:

"I'm a broken-hearted man, and nobody gives a ----." At this point he
caromed over into Ira Lathrop's berth and was welcomed with a savage
roar:

"What the devil's the matter with you?"

"I'm a broken-hearted man, that's all."

"Oh, is that all," Lathrop snapped, vanishing behind his newspaper.
The desperately melancholy seeker for a word of human kindness bleared
at the blurred newspaper wall a while, then waded into a new attempt
at acquaintance. Laying his hand on Lathrop's knee, he stammered:
"Esscuzhe me, Mr.--Mr.----"

From behind the newspaper came a stingy answer: "Lathrop's my name--if
you want to know."

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Lothrop."

"Lathrop!"

"Lathrop! My name's Wellington. Li'l Jimmie Wellington. Ever hear of
me?"

He waited with the genial smile of a famous man; the smile froze at
Lathrop's curt, "Don't think so."

He tried again: "Ever hear of well-known Chicago belle, Mrs. Jimmie
Wellington?"

"Yes, I've heard of her!" There was an ominous grin in the tone.

Wellington waved his hand with modest pride. "Well, I'm Jimmie."

"Serves you right."

This jolt was so discourteous that Wellington decided to protest:
"Mister Latham!"

"Lathrop!"

The name came out with a whip-snap. He tried to echo it, "La-_throp_!"
"I don't like that Throp. That's a kind of a seasick name, isn't it?"
Finding the newspaper still intervening between him and his prey, he
calmly tore it down the middle and pushed through it like a moon
coming through a cloud. "But a man can't change his name by marrying,
can he? That's the worst of it. A woman can. Think of a heartless
cobra di capello in woman's form wearing my fair name--and wearing it
out. Mr. La-_throp_, did you ever put your trust in a false-hearted
woman?"

"Never put my trust in anybody."

"Didn't you ever love a woman?"

"No!"

"Well, then, didn't you ever marry a woman?"

"Not one. I've had the measles and the mumps, but I've never had
matrimony."

"Oh, lucky man," beamed Wellington. "Hang on to your luck."

"I intend to," said Lathrop, "I was born single and I like it."

"Oh, how I envy you! You see, Mrs. Wellington--she's a queen among
women, mind you--a queen among women, but she has the 'stravagance of
a----"

Lathrop had endured all he could endure, even from a privileged
character like little Jimmy Wellington. He rose to take refuge in the
smoking-room. But the very vigor of this departure only served to help
Wellington to his feet, for he seized Lathrop's coat and hung on,
through the door, down the little corridor, always explaining:

"Mrs. Wellington is a queen among women, mind you, but I can't stand
her temper any longer."

He had hardly squeezed into the smoking-room when the porter and an
usher almost invisible under the baggage they carried brought in a new
passenger. Her first question was:

"Oh, porter, did a box of flowers, or candy, or anything, come for
me?"

"What name would they be in, miss?"

"Mrs. Wellington--Mrs. James Wellington."



CHAPTER V

A QUEEN AMONG WOMEN


Miss Anne Gattle, seated in Mrs. Jimmie Wellington's seat, had not
heard Mr. Jimmie Wellington's sketch of his wife. But she needed
hardly more than a glance to satisfy herself that she and Mrs. Jimmie
were as hopelessly antipathetic as only two polite women can be.

Mrs. Jimmie was accounted something of a snob in Chicago society, but
perhaps the missionary was a trifle the snobbisher of the two when
they met.

Miss Gattle could overlook a hundred vices in a Zulu queen more easily
than a few in a fellow countrywoman. She did not like Mrs. Jimmie, and
she was proud of it.

When the porter said, "I'm afraid you got this lady's seat," Miss
Gattle shot one glance at the intruder and rose stiffly. "Then I
suppose I'll have to----"

"Oh, please don't go, there's plenty of room," Mrs. Wellington
insisted, pressing her to remain. This nettled Miss Gattle still more,
but she sank back, while the porter piled up expensive traveling-bags
and hat boxes till there was hardly a place to sit. But even at that
Mrs. Jimmie felt called on to apologize:

"I haven't brought much luggage. How I'll ever live four days with
this, I can't imagine. It will be such a relief to get my trunks at
Reno."

"Reno?" echoed Miss Gattle. "Do you live there?"

"Well, theoretically, yes."

"I don't understand you."

"I've got to live there to get it."

"To get it? Oh!" A look of sudden and dreadful realization came over
the missionary. Mrs. Wellington interpreted it with a smile of gay
defiance:

"Do you believe in divorces?"

Anne Gattle stuck to her guns. "I must say I don't. I think a law
ought to be passed stopping them."

"So do I," Mrs. Wellington amiably agreed, "and I hope they'll pass
just such a law--after I get mine." Then she ventured a little shaft
of her own. "You don't believe in divorces. I judge you've never been
married."

"Not once!" The spinster drew herself up, but Mrs. Wellington disarmed
her with an unexpected bouquet:

"Oh, lucky woman! Don't let any heartless man delude you into taking
the fatal step."

Anne Gattle was nothing if not honest. She confessed frankly: "I must
say that nobody has made any violent efforts to compel me to. That's
why I'm going to China."

"To China!" Mrs. Wellington gasped, hardly believing her ears. "My
dear! You don't intend to marry a laundryman?"

"The idea! I'm going as a missionary."

"A missionary? Why leave Chicago?" Mrs. Wellington's eye softened more
or less convincingly: "Oh, lovely! How I should dote upon being a
missionary. I really think that after I get my divorce I might have a
try at it. I had thought of a convent, but being a missionary must be
much more exciting." She dismissed the dream with an abrupt shake of
the head. "Excuse me, but do you happen to have any matches?"

"Matches! I never carry them!"

"They never have matches in the women's room, and I've used my last
one."

Miss Gattle took another reef in her tight lips. "Do you smoke
cigarettes?"

Mrs. Wellington's echoed disgust with disgust: "Oh, no, indeed. I
loathe them. I have the most dainty little cigars. Did you ever try
one?"

Miss Gattle stiffened into one exclamation point: "Cigars! Me!"

Mrs. Jimmie was so well used to being disapproved of that it never
disturbed her. She went on as if the face opposite were not alive
with horror: "I should think that cigars might be a great consolation
to a lady missionary in the long lone hours of--what do missionaries
do when they're not missionarying?"

"That depends."

There was something almost spiritual in Mrs. Jimmie's beatific look:
"I can't tell you what consolation my cigars have given me in my
troubles. Mr. Wellington objected--but then Mr. Wellington objected to
nearly everything I did. That's why I am forced to this dreadful
step."

"Cigars?"

"Divorces."

"Divorces!"

"Well, this will be only my second--my other was such a nuisance. I
got that from Jimmie, too. But it didn't take. Then we made up and
remarried. Rather odd, having a second honeymoon with one's first
husband. But remarriage didn't succeed any better. Jimmie fell off the
water-wagon with an awful splash, and he quite misunderstood my purely
platonic interest in Sammy Whitcomb, a nice young fellow with a fool
of a wife. Did you ever meet Mrs. Sammy Whitcomb--no? Oh, but you are
a lucky woman! Indeed you are! Well, when Jimmie got jealous, I just
gave him up entirely. I'm running away to Reno. I sent a note to my
husband's club, saying that I had gone to Europe, and he needn't try
to find me. Poor fellow, he will. He'll hunt the continent high and
low for me, but all the while I'll be in Nevada. Rather good joke on
little Jimmie, eh?"

"Excruciating!"

"But now I must go. Now I must go. I've really become quite addicted
to them."

"Divorces?"

"Cigars. Do stay here till I come back. I have so much to say to you."

Miss Gattle shook her head in despair. She could understand a dozen
heathen dialects better than the speech of so utter a foreigner as her
fellow-countrywoman. Mrs. Jimmie hastened away, rather pleased at the
shocks she had administered. She enjoyed her own electricity.

In the corridor she administered another thrill--this time to a tall
young man--a stranger, as alert for flirtation as a weasel for
mischief. He huddled himself and his suitcases into as flat a space as
possible, murmuring:

"These corridors are so narrow, aren't they?"

"Aren't they?" said Mrs. Jimmie. "So sorry to trouble you."

"Don't mention it."

She passed on, their glances fencing like playful foils. Then she
paused:

"Excuse me. Could you lend me a match? They never have matches in the
Women's Room."

He succeeded in producing a box after much shifting of burdens, and he
was rewarded with a look and a phrase:

"You have saved my life."

He started to repeat his "Don't mention it," but it seemed
inappropriate, so he said nothing, and she vanished behind a door. He
turned away, saying to himself that it promised to be a pleasant
journey. He was halted by another voice--another woman's voice:

"Pardon me, but is this the car for Reno?"

He turned to smile, "I believe so!" Then his eyes widened as he
recognized the speaker.

"Mrs. Sammy Whitcomb!"

It promised to be a curious journey.



CHAPTER VI

A CONSPIRACY IN SATIN


The tall man emptied one hand of its suitcase to clasp the hand the
newcomer granted him. He held it fast as he exclaimed: "Don't tell me
that you are bound for Reno!" She whimpered: "I'm afraid so, Mr.
Ashton."

He put down everything to take her other hand, and tuned his voice to
condolence: "Why, I thought you and Sam Whitcomb were--"

"Oh, we were until that shameless Mrs. Wellington----"

"Mrs. Wellington? Don't believe I know her."

"I thought everybody had heard of Mrs. Jimmie Wellington."

"Mrs. Jimmie--oh, yes, I've heard of her!" Everybody seemed to have
heard of Mrs. Jimmie Wellington.

"What a dance she has led her poor husband!" Mrs. Whitcomb said. "And
my poor Sammy fell into her trap, too."

Ashton, zealous comforter, took a wrathful tone: "I always thought
your husband was the most unmitigated----" But Mrs. Whitcomb bridled
at once. "How dare you criticize Sammy! He's the nicest boy in the
world."

Ashton recovered quickly. "That's what I started to say. Will he
contest the--divorce?"

"Of course not," she beamed. "The dear fellow would never deny me
anything. Sammy offered to get it himself, but I told him he'd better
stay in Chicago and stick to business. I shall need such a lot of
alimony."

"Too bad he couldn't have come along," Ashton insinuated.

But the irony was wasted, for she sighed: "Yes, I shall miss him
terribly. But we feared that if he were with me it might hamper me in
getting a divorce on the ground of desertion."

She was trying to look earnest and thoughtful and heartbroken, but the
result was hardly plausible, for Mrs. Sammy Whitcomb could not
possibly have been really earnest or really thoughtful; and her heart
was quite too elastic to break. She proved it instantly, for when she
heard behind her the voice of a young man asking her to let him pass,
she turned to protest, but seeing that he was a handsome young man,
her starch was instantly changed to sugar. And she rewarded his good
looks with a smile, as he rewarded hers with another.

Then Ashton intervened like a dog in the manger and dragged her off to
her seat, leaving the young man to exclaim:

"Some tamarind, that!"

Another young man behind him growled: "Cut out the tamarinds and get
to business. Mallory will be here any minute."

"I hate to think what he'll do to us when he sees what we've done to
him."

"Oh, he won't dare to fight in the presence of his little
bridey-widey. Do you see the porter in there?"

"Yes, suppose he objects."

"Well, we have the tickets. We'll claim it's our section till Mallory
and Mrs. Mallory come."

They moved on into the car, where the porter confronted them. When he
saw that they were loaded with bundles of all shapes and sizes, he
waved them away with scorn:

"The emigrant sleepa runs only Toosdays and Thuzzdays."

From behind the first mass of packages came a brisk military answer:

"You black hound! About face--forward march! Section number one."

The porter retreated down the aisle, apologizing glibly. "'Scuse me
for questionin' you, but you-all's baggage looked kind o' eccentric at
first."

The two young men dumped their parcels on the seats and began to
unwrap them hastily.

"If Mallory catches us, he'll kill us," said Lieutenant Shaw.
Lieutenant Hudson only laughed and drew out a long streamer of white
satin ribbon. Its glimmer, and the glimmering eyes of the young man
excited Mrs. Whitcomb so much that after a little hesitance she moved
forward, followed by the jealous Ashton.

"Oh, what's up?" she ventured. "It looks like something bridal."

"Talk about womanly intuition!" said Lieutenant Hudson, with an
ingratiating salaam.

And then they explained to her that their classmate at West Point,
being ordered suddenly to the Philippines, had arranged to elope with
his beloved Marjorie Newton; had asked them to get the tickets and
check the baggage while he stopped at a minister's to "get spliced and
hike for Manila by this train."

Having recounted this plan in the full belief that it was even at that
moment being carried out successfully, Lieutenant Hudson, with a
ghoulish smile, explained:

"Being old friends of the bride and groom, we want to fix their
section up in style and make them truly comfortable."

"Delicious!" gushed Mrs. Whitcomb. "But you ought to have some rice
and old shoes."

"Here's the rice," said Hudson.

"Here's the old shoes," said Shaw.

"Lovely!" cried Mrs. Whitcomb, but then she grew soberer. "I should
think, though, that they--the young couple--would have preferred a
stateroom."

"Of course," said Hudson, almost blushing, "but it was taken. This was
the best we could do for them."

"That's why we want to make it nice and bridelike," said Shaw.
"Perhaps you could help us--a woman's touch----"

"Oh, I'd love to," she glowed, hastening into the section among the
young men and the bundles. The unusual stir attracted the porter's
suspicions. He came forward with a look of authority:

"'Scuse me, but wha--what's all this?"

"Vanish--get out," said Hudson, poking a coin at him. As he turned to
obey, Mrs. Whitcomb checked him with: "Oh, Porter, could you get us a
hammer and some nails?"

The porter almost blanched: "Good Lawd, Miss, you ain't allowin' to
drive nails in that woodwork, is you?" That woodwork was to him what
the altar is to the priest.

But Hudson, resorting to heroic measures, hypnotized him with a
two-dollar bill: "Here, take this and see nothing, hear nothing, say
nothing." The porter caressed it and chuckled: "I'm blind, deaf and
speechless." He turned away, only to come back at once with a timid
"'Scuse me!"

"You here yet?" growled Hudson.

Anxiously the porter pleaded: "I just want to ast one question. Is
you all fixin' up for a bridal couple?"

"Foolish question, number eight million, forty-three," said Shaw.
"Answer, no, we are."

The porter's face glistened like fresh stove polish as he gloated over
the prospect. "I tell you, it'll be mahty refreshin' to have a bridal
couple on bode! This dog-on old Reno train don't carry nothin' much
but divorcees. I'm just nachally hongry for a bridal couple."

"Brile coup-hic-le?" came a voice, like an echo that had somehow
become intoxicated in transit. It was Little Jimmie Wellington looking
for more sympathy. "Whass zis about brile couple?"

"Why, here's Little Buttercup!" sang out young Hudson, looking at him
in amazed amusement.

"Did I un'stan' somebody say you're preparing for a brile coupl'?"

Lieutenant Shaw grinned. "I don't know what you understood, but that's
what we're doing."

Immediately Wellington's great face began to churn and work like a big
eddy in a river. Suddenly he was weeping. "Excuse these tears,
zhentlemen, but I was once--I was once a b-b-bride myself."

"He looks like a whole wedding party," was Ashton's only comment on
the copious grief. It was poor Wellington's fate to hunt as vainly for
sympathy as Diogenes for honesty. The decorators either ignored him or
shunted him aside. They were interested in a strange contrivance of
ribbons and a box that Shaw produced.

"That," Hudson explained, "is a little rice trap. We hang that up
there and when the bridal couple sit down--biff! a shower of rice all
over them. It's bad, eh?"

Everybody agreed that it was a happy thought and even Jimmie
Wellington, like a great baby, bounding from tears to laughter on the
instant, was chortling: "A rishe trap? That's abslootly
splendid--greates' invensh' modern times. I must stick around and see
her when she flops." And then he lurched forward like a too-obliging
elephant. "Let me help you."

Mrs. Whitcomb, who had now mounted a step ladder and poised herself as
gracefully as possible, shrieked with alarm, as she saw Wellington's
bulk rolling toward her frail support.

If Hudson and Shaw had not been football veterans at West Point and
had not known just what to do when the center rush comes bucking the
line, they could never have blocked that flying wedge. But they
checked him and impelled him backward through his own curtains into
his own berth.

Finding himself on his back, he decided to remain there. And there he
remained, oblivious of the carnival preparations going on just outside
his canopy.



CHAPTER VII

THE MASKED MINISTER


Being an angel must have this great advantage at least, that one may
sit in the grandstand overlooking the earth and enjoy the ludicrous
blunders of that great blind man's buff we call life.

This night, if any angels were watching Chicago, the Mallory mix-up
must have given them a good laugh, or a good cry--according to their
natures.

Here were Mallory and Marjorie, still merely engaged, bitterly
regretting their inability to get married and to continue their
journey together. There in the car were the giggling conspirators
preparing a bridal mockery for their sweet confusion.

Then the angels might have nudged one another and said:

"Oh, it's all right now. There goes a minister hurrying to their very
car. Mallory has the license in his pocket, and here comes the parson.
Hooray!"

And then the angelic cheer must have died out as the one great hurrah
of a crowded ball-ground is quenched in air when the home team's
vitally needed home run swerves outside the line and drops useless as
a stupid foul ball.

In a shabby old hack, were two of the happiest runaways that ever
sought a train. They were not miserable like the young couple in the
taxicab. They were white-haired both. They had been married for thirty
years. Yet this was their real honeymoon, their real elopement.

The little woman in the timid gray bonnet clapped her hands and
tittered like a schoolgirl.

"Oh, Walter, I can't believe we're really going to leave Ypsilanti for
a while. Oh, but you've earned it after thirty years of being a
preacher."

"Hush. Don't let me hear you say the awful word," said the little old
man in the little black hat and the close-fitting black bib. "I'm so
tired of it, Sally, I don't want anybody on the train to know it."

"They can't help guessing it, with your collar buttoned behind."

And then the amazing minister actually dared to say, "Here's where I
change it around." What's more, he actually did it. Actually took off
his collar and buttoned it to the front. The old carriage seemed
almost to rock with the earthquake of the deed.

"Why, Walter Temple!" his wife exclaimed. "What would they say in
Ypsilanti?"

"They'll never know," he answered, defiantly.

"But your bib?" she said.

"I've thought of that, too," he cried, as he whipped it off and
stuffed it into a handbag. "Look, what I've bought." And he dangled
before her startled eyes a long affair which the sudden light from a
passing lamppost revealed to be nothing less than a flaring red tie.

The little old lady touched it to make sure she was not dreaming it.
Then, omitting further parley with fate, she snatched it away, put it
round his neck, and, since her arms were embracing him, kissed him
twice before she knotted the ribbon into a flaming bow. She sat back
and regarded the vision a moment, then flung her arms around him and
hugged him till he gasped:

"Watch out-watch out. Don't crush my cigars."

"Cigars! Cigars!" she echoed, in a daze.

And then the astounding husband produced them in proof.

"Genuine Lillian Russells--five cents straight."

"But I never saw you smoke."

"Haven't taken a puff since I was a young fellow," he grinned, wagging
his head. "But now it's my vacation, and I'm going to smoke up."

She squeezed his hand with an earlier ardor: "Now you're the old
Walter Temple I used to know."

  [Illustration: "NOW IT'S MY VACATION, AND I'M GOING TO SMOKE UP"....]

"Sally," he said, "I've been traveling through life on a half-fare
ticket. Now I'm going to have my little fling. And you brace up, too,
and be the old mischievous Sally I used to know. Aren't you glad to be
away from those sewing circles and gossip-bees, and----"

"Ugh! Don't ever mention them," she shuddered. Then she, too, felt a
tinge of recurring springtide. "If you start to smoking, I think I'll
take up flirting once more."

He pinched her cheek and laughed. "As the saying is, go as far as you
desire and I'll leave the coast clear."

He kept his promise, too, for they were no sooner on the train and
snugly bestowed in section five, than he was up and off.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"To the smoking-room," he swaggered, brandishing a dangerous looking
cigar.

"Oh, Walter," she snickered, "I feel like a young runaway."

"You look like one. Be careful not to let anybody know that you're
a"--he lowered his voice--"an old preacher's wife."

"I'm as ashamed of it as you are," she whispered. Then he threw her a
kiss and a wink. She threw him a kiss and winked, too. And he went
along the aisle eyeing his cigar gloatingly. As he entered the
smoking-room, lighted the weed and blew out a great puff with a sigh
of rapture, who could have taken him, with his feet cocked up, and
his red tie rakishly askew, for a minister?

And Sally herself was busy disguising herself, loosening up her hair
coquettishly, smiling the primness out of the set corners of her mouth
and even--let the truth be told at all costs--even passing a
pink-powdered puff over her pale cheeks with guilty surreptition.

Thus arrayed she was soon joining the conspirators bedecking the bower
for the expected bride and groom. She was the youngest and most
mischievous of the lot. She felt herself a bride again, and vowed to
protect this timid little wife to come from too much hilarity at the
hands of the conspirators.



CHAPTER VIII

A MIXED PICKLE


Mrs. Whitcomb had almost blushed when she had murmured to Lieutenant
Hudson:

"I should think the young couple would have preferred a stateroom."

And Mr. Hudson had flinched a little as he explained:

"Yes, of course. We tried to get it, but it was gone."

It was during the excitement over the decoration of the bridal
section, that the stateroom-tenants slipped in unobserved.

First came a fluttering woman whose youthful beauty had a certain hue
of experience, saddening and wisering. The porter brought her in from
the station-platform, led her to the stateroom's concave door and
passed in with her luggage. But she lingered without, a Peri at the
gate of Paradise. When the porter returned to bow her in, she shivered
and hesitated, and then demanded:

"Oh, Porter, are you sure there's nobody else in there?"

The porter chuckled, but humored her panic.

"I ain't seen nobody. Shall I look under the seat?"

To his dismay, she nodded her head violently. He rolled his eyes in
wonderment, but returned to the stateroom, made a pretense of
examination, and came back with a face full of reassurance. "No'm,
they's nobody there. Take a mighty small-size burglar to squeeje unda
that baid--er--berth. No'm, nobody there."

"Oh!"

The gasp was so equivocal that he made bold to ask:

"Is you pleased or disappointed?"

The mysterious young woman was too much agitated to rebuke the
impudence. She merely sighed: "Oh, porter, I'm so anxious."

"I'm not--now," he muttered, for she handed him a coin.

"Porter, have you seen anybody on board that looks suspicious?"

"Evvabody looks suspicious to me, Missy. But what was you
expecting--especial?"

"Oh, porter, have you seen anybody that looks like a detective in
disguise?"

"Well, they's one man looks 's if he was disguised as a balloon, but I
don't believe he's no slooch-hound."

"Well, if you see anything that looks like a detective and he asks for
Mrs. Fosdick----"

"Mrs. What-dick?"

"Mrs. Fosdick! You tell him I'm not on board." And she gave him
another coin.

"Yassum," said the porter, lingering willingly on such fertile soil.
"I'll tell him Mrs. Fosdick done give me her word she wasn't on bode."

"Yes!--and if a woman should ask you."

"What kind of a woman?"

"The hideous kind that men call handsome."

"Oh, ain't they hideous, them handsome women?"

"Well, if such a woman asks for Mrs. Fosdick--she's my husband's first
wife--but of course that doesn't interest you."

"No'm--yes'm."

"If she comes--tell her--tell her--oh, what shall we tell her?"

The porter rubbed his thick skull: "Lemme see--we might say you--I
tell you what we'll tell her: we'll tell her you took the train for
New York; and if she runs mighty fast she can just about ketch it."

"Fine, fine!" And she rewarded his genius with another coin. "And,
porter." He had not budged. "Porter, if a very handsome man with
luscious eyes and a soulful smile asks for me----"

"I'll th'ow him off the train!"

"Oh, no--no!--that's my husband--my present husband. You may let him
in. Now is it all perfectly clear, porter?"

"Oh, yassum, clear as clear." Thus guaranteed she entered the
stateroom, leaving the porter alone with his problem. He tried to work
it out in a semi-audible mumble: "Lemme see! If your present husband's
absent wife gits on bode disguised as a handsome hideous woman I'm to
throw him--her--off the train and let her--him--come in--oh, yassum,
you may rely on me." He bowed and held out his hand again. But she was
gone. He shuffled on into the car.

He had hardly left the little space before the stateroom when a
handsome man with luscious eyes, but without any smile at all, came
slinking along the corridor and tapped cautiously on the door. Silence
alone answered him at first, then when he had rapped again, he heard a
muffled:

"Go away. I'm not in."

He put his lips close and softly called: "Edith!"

At this Sesame the door opened a trifle, but when he tried to enter, a
hand thrust him back and a voice again warned him off. "You musn't
come in."

"But I'm your husband."

"That's just why you musn't come in." The door opened a little wider
to give him a view of a downcast beauty moaning:

"Oh, Arthur, I'm so afraid."

"Afraid?" he sniffed. "With your husband here?"

"That's the trouble, Arthur. What if your former wife should find us
together?"

"But she and I are divorced."

"In some states, yes--but other states don't acknowledge the divorce.
That former wife of yours is a fiend to pursue us this way."

"She's no worse than your former husband. He's pursuing us, too. My
divorce was as good as yours, my dear."

"Yes, and no better."

The angels looking on might have judged from the ready tempers of the
newly married and not entirely unmarried twain that their new alliance
promised to be as exciting as their previous estates. Perhaps the man
subtly felt the presence of those eternal eavesdroppers, for he tried
to end the love-duel in the corridor with an appeasing caress and a
tender appeal: "But let's not start our honeymoon with a quarrel."

His partial wife returned the caress and tried to explain: "I'm not
quarreling with you, dear heart, but with the horrid divorce laws.
Why, oh, why did we ever interfere with them?"

He made a brave effort with: "We ended two unhappy marriages, Edith,
to make one happy one."

"But I'm so unhappy, Arthur, and so afraid."

He seemed a trifle afraid himself and his gaze was askance as he
urged: "But the train will start soon, Edith--and then we shall be
safe."

Mrs. Fosdick had a genius for inventing unpleasant possibilities.
"But what if your former wife or my former husband should have a
detective on board?"

"A detective?--poof!" He snapped his fingers in bravado. "You are with
your husband, aren't you?"

"In Illinois, yes," she admitted, very dolefully. "But when we come to
Iowa, I'm a bigamist, and when we come to Nebraska, you're a bigamist,
and when we come to Wyoming, we're not married at all."

It was certainly a tangled web they had woven, but a ray of light shot
through it into his bewildered soul. "But we're all right in Utah.
Come, dearest."

He took her by the elbow to escort her into their sanctuary, but still
she hung back.

"On one condition, Arthur--that you leave me as soon as we cross the
Iowa state line, and not come back till we get to Utah. Remember, the
Iowa state line!"

"Oh, all right," he smiled. And seeing the porter, he beckoned him
close and asked with careless indifference: "Oh, Porter, what time do
we reach the Iowa state line?"

"Two fifty-five in the mawning, sah."

"Two fifty-five A.M.?" the wretch exclaimed.

"Two fifty-five A.M., yassah," the porter repeated, and wondered why
this excerpt from the time-table should exert such a dramatic effect
on the luscious-eyed Fosdick.

He had small time to meditate the puzzle, for the train was about to
be launched upon its long voyage. He went out to the platform, and
watched a couple making that way. As their only luggage was a
dog-basket he supposed that they were simply come to bid some of his
passengers good-bye. No tips were to be expected from such transients,
so he allowed them to help themselves up the steps.

Mallory and his Marjorie had tried to kiss the farewell of farewells
half a dozen times, but she could not let him go at the gate. She
asked the guard to let her through, and her beauty was bribe enough.

Again and again, she and Mallory paused. He wanted to take her back to
the taxicab, but she would not be so dismissed. She must spend the
last available second with him.

"I'll go as far as the steps of the car," she said. When they were
arrived there, two porters, a sleeping car conductor and several
smoking saunterers profaned the tryst. So she whispered that she would
come aboard, for the corridor would be a quiet lane for the last
rites.

And now that he had her actually on the train, Mallory's whole soul
revolted against letting her go. The vision of her standing on the
platform sad-eyed and lorn, while the train swept him off into space
was unendurable. He shut his eyes against it, but it glowed inside the
lids.

And then temptation whispered him its old "Why not?" While it was
working in his soul like a fermenting yeast, he was saying:

"To think that we should owe all our misfortune to an infernal
taxicab's break-down."

Out of the anguish of her loneliness crept one little complaint:

"If you had really wanted me, you'd have had two taxicabs."

"Oh, how can you say that? I had the license bought and the minister
waiting."

"He's waiting yet."

"And the ring--there's the ring." He fished it out of his waistcoat
pocket and held it before her as a golden amulet.

"A lot of good it does now," said Marjorie. "You won't even wait over
till the next train."

"I've told you a thousand times, my love," he protested, desperately,
"if I don't catch the transport, I'll be courtmartialed. If this train
is late, I'm lost. If you really loved me you'd come along with me."

Her very eyes gasped at this astounding proposal.

"Why, Harry Mallory, you know it's impossible."

Like a sort of benevolent Satan, he laid the ground for his abduction:
"You'll leave me, then, to spend three years without you--out among
those Manila women."

She shook her head in terror at this vision. "It would be too horrible
for words to have you marry one of those mahogany sirens."

He held out the apple. "Better come along, then."

"But how can I? We're not married."

He answered airily: "Oh, I'm sure there's a minister on board."

"But it would be too awful to be married with all the passengers
gawking. No, I couldn't face it. Good-bye, honey."

She turned away, but he caught her arm: "Don't you love me?"

"To distraction. I'll wait for you, too."

"Three years is a long wait."

"But I'll wait, if you will."

With such devotion he could not tamper. It was too beautiful to risk
or endanger or besmirch with any danger of scandal. He gave up his
fantastic project and gathered her into his arms, crowded her into his
very soul, as he vowed: "I'll wait for you forever and ever and ever."

Her arms swept around his neck, and she gave herself up as an exile
from happiness, a prisoner of a far-off love:

"Good-bye, my husband-to-be."

"Good-bye my wife-that-was-to-have-been-and-will-be-yet-maybe."

"Good-bye."

"Good-bye."

"Good-bye."

"Good-bye."

"I must go."

"Yes, you must."

"One last kiss."

"One more--one long last kiss."

And there, entwined in each other's arms, with lips wedded and eyelids
clinched, they clung together, forgetting everything past, future, or
present. Love's anguish made them blind, mute, and deaf.

They did not hear the conductor crying his, "All Aboard!" down the
long wall of the train. They did not hear the far-off knell of the
bell. They did not hear the porters banging the vestibules shut. They
did not feel the floor sliding out with them.

And so the porter found them, engulfed in one embrace, swaying and
swaying, and no more aware of the increasing rush of the train than we
other passengers on the earth-express are aware of its speed through
the ether-routes on its ancient schedule.

The porter stood with his box-step in his hand, and blinked and
wondered. And they did not even know they were observed.



CHAPTER IX

ALL ABOARD!


The starting of the train surprised the ironical decorators in the
last stages of their work. Their smiles died out in a sudden shame, as
it came over them that the joke had recoiled on their own heads. They
had done their best to carry out the time-honored rite of making a
newly married couple as miserable as possible--and the newly married
couple had failed to do its share.

The two lieutenants glared at each other in mutual contempt. They had
studied much at West Point about ambushes, and how to avoid them.
Could Mallory have escaped the pit they had digged for him? They
looked at their handiwork in disgust. The cosy-corner effect of white
ribbons and orange flowers, gracefully masking the concealed
rice-trap, had seemed the wittiest thing ever devised. Now it looked
the silliest.

The other passengers were equally downcast. Meanwhile the two lovers
in the corridor were kissing good-byes as if they were hoping to store
up honey enough to sustain their hearts for a three years' fast. And
the porter was studying them with perplexity.

He was used, however, to waking people out of dreamland, and he began
to fear that if he were discovered spying on the lovers, he might
suffer. So he coughed discreetly three or four times.

Since the increasing racket of the train made no effect on the two
hearts beating as one, the small matter of a cough was as nothing.

Finally the porter was compelled to reach forward and tap Mallory's
arm, and stutter:

"'Scuse me, but co-could I git b-by?"

The embrace was untied, and the lovers stared at him with a dazed,
where-am-I? look. Marjorie was the first to realize what awakened
them. She felt called upon to say something, so she said, as
carelessly as if she had not just emerged from a young gentleman's
arms:

"Oh, porter, how long before the train starts?"

"Train's done started, Missy."

This simple statement struck the wool from her eyes and the cotton
from her ears, and she was wide enough awake when she cried: "Oh, stop
it--stop it!"

"That's mo'n I can do, Missy," the porter expostulated.

"Then I'll jump off," Marjorie vowed, making a dash for the door.

But the porter filled the narrow path, and waved her back.

"Vestibule's done locked up--train's going lickety-split." Feeling
that he had safely checkmated any rashness, the porter squeezed past
the dumbfounded pair, and went to change his blue blouse for the white
coat of his chambermaidenly duties. Mallory's first wondering thought
was a rapturous feeling that circumstances had forced his dream into a
reality. He thrilled with triumph: "You've got to go with me now."

"Yes--I've got to go," Marjorie assented meekly; then, sublimely,
"It's fate. Kismet!"

They clutched each other again in a fiercely blissful hug. Marjorie
came back to earth with a bump: "Are you really sure there's a
minister on board?"

"Pretty sure," said Mallory, sobering a trifle.

"But you said you were sure?"

"Well, when you say you're sure, that means you're not quite sure."

It was not an entirely satisfactory justification, and Marjorie began
to quake with alarm: "Suppose there shouldn't be?"

"Oh, then," Mallory answered carelessly, "there's bound to be one
to-morrow."

Marjorie realized at once the enormous abyss between then and the
morrow, and she gasped: "Tomorrow! And no chaperon! Oh, I'll jump out
of the window."

Mallory could prevent that, but when she pleaded, "What shall we do?"
he had no solution to offer. Again it was she who received the first
inspiration.

"I have it," she beamed.

"Yes, Marjorie?" he assented, dubiously.

"We'll pretend not to be married at all."

He seized the rescuing ladder: "That's it! Not married--just friends."

"Till we can get married----"

"Yes, and then we can stop being friends."

"My love--my friend!" They embraced in a most unfriendly manner.

An impatient yelp from the neglected dog-basket awoke them.

"Oh, Lord, we've brought Snoozleums."

"Of course we have." She took the dog from the prison, tucked him
under her arm, and tried to compose her bridal face into a merely
friendly countenance before they entered the car. But she must pause
for one more kiss, one more of those bittersweet good-byes. And
Mallory was nothing loath.

Hudson and Shaw were still glumly perplexed, when the porter returned
in his white jacket.

"I bet they missed the train; all this work for nothing," Hudson
grumbled. But Shaw, seeing the porter, caught a gleam of hope, and
asked anxiously:

"Say, porter, have you seen anything anywhere that looks like a
freshly married pair?"

"Well," and the porter rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand as
he chuckled, "well, they's a mighty lovin' couple out theah in the
corridor."

"That's them--they--it!"

Instantly everything was alive and in action. It was as if a bugle had
shrilled in a dejected camp.

"Get ready!" Shaw commanded. "Here's rice for everybody."

"Everybody take an old shoe," said Hudson. "You can't miss in this
narrow car."

"There's a kazoo for everyone, too," said Shaw, as the outstretched
hands were equipped with wedding ammunition. "Do you know the 'Wedding
March'?"

"I ought to by this time," said Mrs. Whitcomb.

Right into the tangle of preparation, old Ira Lathrop stalked, on his
way back to his seat to get more cigars.

"Have some rice for the bridal couple?" said Ashton, offering him of
his own double-handful.

But Lathrop brushed him aside with a romance-hater's growl.

"Watch out for your head, then," cried Hudson, and Lathrop ducked just
too late to escape a neck-filling, hair-filling shower. An old shoe
took him a clip abaft the ear, and the old woman-hater dropped raging
into the same berth where the spinster, Anne Gattle, was trying to
dodge the same downpour.

Still there was enough of the shrapnel left to overwhelm the two young
"friends," who marched into the aisle, trying to look indifferent and
prepared for nothing on earth less than for a wedding charivari.

Mallory should have done better than to entrust his plans to fellows
like Hudson and Shaw, whom he had known at West Point for diabolically
joyous hazers and practical jokers. Even as he sputtered rice and
winced from the impact of flying footgear, he was cursing himself as a
double-dyed idiot for asking such men to engage his berth for him. He
had a sudden instinct that they had doubtless bedecked his trunk and
Marjorie's with white satin furbelows and ludicrous labels. But he
could not shelter himself from the white sleet and the black thumps.
He could hardly shelter Marjorie, who cowered behind him and shrieked
even louder than the romping tormentors.

When the assailants had exhausted the rice and shoes, they charged
down the aisle for the privilege of kissing the bride. Mallory was
dragged and bunted and shunted here and there, and he had to fight his
way back to Marjorie with might and main. He was tugging and striking
like a demon, and yelling, "Stop it! stop it!"

Hudson took his punishment with uproarious good nature, laughing:

"Oh, shut up, or we'll kiss you!"

But Shaw was scrubbing his wry lips with a seasick wail of:

"Wow! I think I kissed the dog."

There was, of necessity, some pause for breath, and the combatants
draped themselves limply about the seats. Mallory glared at the twin
Benedict Arnolds and demanded:

"Are you two thugs going to San Francisco with us?"

"Don't worry," smiled Hudson, "we're only going as far as Kedzie
Avenue, just to start the honeymoon properly."

If either of the elopers had been calmer, the solution of the problem
would have been simple. Marjorie could get off at this suburban
station and drive home from there. But their wits were like pied type,
and they were further jumbled, when Shaw broke in with a sudden:
"Come, see the little dovecote we fixed for you."

Before they knew it, they were both haled along the aisle to the white
satin atrocity. "Love in a bungalow," said Hudson. "Sit down--make
yourselves perfectly at home."

"No--never--oh, oh, oh!" cried Marjorie, darting away and throwing
herself into the first empty seat--Ira Lathrop's berth. Mallory
followed to console her with caresses and murmurs of, "There, there,
don't cry, dearie!"

Hudson and Shaw followed close with mawkish mockery: "Don't cry,
dearie."

And now Mrs. Temple intervened. She had enjoyed the initiation
ceremony as well as anyone. But when the little bride began to cry,
she remembered the pitiful terror and shy shame she had undergone as a
girl-wife, and she hastened to Marjorie's side, brushing the men away
like gnats.

"You poor thing," she comforted. "Come, my child, lean on me, and have
a good cry."

Hudson grinned, and put out his own arms: "She can lean on me, if
she'd rather."

Mrs. Temple glanced up with indignant rebuke: "Her mother is far away,
and she wants a mother's breast to weep on. Here's mine, my dear."

The impudent Shaw tapped his own military chest: "She can use mine."

Infuriated at this bride-baiting, Mallory rose and confronted the two
imps with clenched fists: "You're a pretty pair of friends, you are!"

The imperturbable Shaw put out a pair of tickets as his only defence:
"Here are your tickets, old boy."

And Hudson roared jovially: "We tried to get you a stateroom, but it
was gone."

"And here are your baggage checks," laughed Shaw, forcing into his
fists a few pasteboards. "We got your trunks on the train ahead, all
right. Don't mention it--you're entirely welcome."

It was the porter that brought the first relief from the ordeal.

"If you gemmen is gettin' off at Kedzie Avenue, you'd better step
smart. We're slowin' up now."

Marjorie was sobbing too audibly to hear, and Mallory swearing too
inaudibly to heed the opportunity Kedzie Avenue offered. And Hudson
was yelling: "Well, good-bye, old boy and old girl. Sorry we can't go
all the way." He had the effrontery to try to kiss the bride good-bye,
and Shaw was equally bold, but Mallory's fury enabled him to beat them
off. He elbowed and shouldered them down the aisle, and sent after
them one of his own shoes. But it just missed Shaw's flying coattails.

Mallory stood glaring after the departing traitors. He was glad that
they at least were gone, till he realized with a sickening slump in
his vitals, that they had not taken with them his awful dilemma. And
now the train was once more clickety-clicking into the night and the
West.



CHAPTER X

EXCESS BAGGAGE


Never was a young soldier so stumped by a problem in tactics as
Lieutenant Harry Mallory, safely aboard his train, and not daring to
leave it, yet hopelessly unaware of how he was to dispose of his
lovely but unlabelled baggage.

Hudson and Shaw had erected a white satin temple to Hymen in berth
number one, had created such commotion, and departed in such
confusion, that there had been no opportunity to proclaim that he and
Marjorie were "not married--just friends."

And now the passengers had accepted them as that enormous fund of
amusement to any train, a newly wedded pair. To explain the mistake
would have been difficult, even among friends. But among
strangers--well, perhaps a wiser and a colder brain than Harry
Mallory's could have stood there and delivered a brief oration
restoring truth to her pedestal. But Mallory was in no condition for
such a stoic delivery.

He mopped his brow in agony, lost in a blizzard of bewilderments. He
drifted back toward Marjorie, half to protect and half for
companionship. He found Mrs. Temple cuddling her close and mothering
her as if she were a baby instead of a bride.

"Did the poor child run away and get married?"

Marjorie's frantic "Boo-hoo-hoo" might have meant anything. Mrs.
Temple took it for assent, and murmured with glowing reminiscence:

"Just the way Doctor Temple and I did."

She could not see the leaping flash of wild hope that lighted up
Mallory's face. She only heard his voice across her shoulder:

"Doctor? Doctor Temple? Is your husband a reverend doctor?"

"A reverend doctor?" the little old lady repeated weakly.

"Yes--a--a preacher?"

The poor old congregation-weary soul was abruptly confronted with the
ruination of all the delight in her little escapade with her
pulpit-fagged husband. If she had ever dreamed that the girl who was
weeping in her arms was weeping from any other fright than the usual
fright of young brides, fresh from the preacher's benediction, she
would have cast every other consideration aside, and told the truth.

But her husband's last behest before he left her had been to keep
their precious pretend-secret. She felt--just then--that a woman's
first duty is to obey her husband. Besides, what business was it of
this young husband's what her old husband's business was? Before she
had fairly begun to debate her duty, almost automatically, with the
instantaneous instinct of self-protection, her lips had uttered the
denial:

"Oh--he's--just a--plain doctor. There he is now."

Mallory cast one miserable glance down the aisle at Dr. Temple coming
back from the smoking room. As the old man paused to stare at the
bridal berth, whose preparation he had not seen, he was just enough
befuddled by his first cigar for thirty years to look a trifle tipsy.
The motion of the train and the rakish tilt of his unwonted crimson
tie confirmed the suspicion and annihilated Mallory's new-born hope,
that perhaps repentant fate had dropped a parson at their very feet.

He sank into the seat opposite Marjorie, who gave him one terrified
glance, and burst into fresh sobs:

"Oh--oh--boo-hoo--I'm so unhap--hap--py."

Perhaps Mrs. Temple was a little miffed at the couple that had led her
astray and opened her own honeymoon with a wanton fib. In any case,
the best consolation she could offer Marjorie was a perfunctory pat,
and a cynicism:

"There, there, dear! You don't know what real unhappiness is yet. Wait
till you've been married a while."

And then she noted a startling lack of completeness in the bride's
hand.

"Why--my dear!--where's your wedding ring?"

With what he considered great presence of mind, Mallory explained:
"It--it slipped off--I--I picked it up. I have it here." And he took
the little gold band from his waistcoat and tried to jam it on
Marjorie's right thumb.

"Not on the thumb!" Mrs. Temple cried. "Don't you know?"

"You see, it's my first marriage."

"You poor boy--this finger!" And Mrs. Temple, raising Marjorie's limp
hand, selected the proper digit, and held it forward, while Mallory
pressed the fatal circlet home.

And then Mrs. Temple, having completed their installation as man and
wife, utterly confounded their confusion by her final effort at
comfort: "Well, my dears, I'll go back to my seat, and leave you alone
with your dear husband."

"My dear what?" Marjorie mumbled inanely, and began to sniffle again.
Whereupon Mrs. Temple resigned her to Mallory, and consigned her to
fate with a consoling platitude:

"Cheer up, my dear, you'll be all right in the morning."

Marjorie and Mallory's eyes met in one wild clash, and then both
stared into the window, and did not notice that the shades were down.



CHAPTER XI

A CHANCE RENCOUNTER


While Mrs. Temple was confiding to her husband that the agitated
couple in the next seat had just come from a wedding-factory, and had
got on while he was lost in tobacco land, the people in the seat on
the other side of them were engaged in a little drama of their own.

Ira Lathrop, known to all who knew him as a woman-hating
snapping-turtle, was so busily engaged trying to drag the farthest
invading rice grains out of the back of his neck, that he was late in
realizing his whereabouts. When he raised his head, he found that he
had crowded into a seat with an uncomfortable looking woman, who
crowded against the window with old-maidenly timidity.

He felt some apology to be necessary, and he snarled: "Disgusting
things, these weddings!" After he heard this, it did not sound
entirely felicitous, so he grudgingly ventured: "Excuse me--you
married?"

She denied the soft impeachment so heartily that he softened a
little:

"You're a sensible woman. I guess you and I are the only sensible
people on this train."

"It--seems--so," she giggled. It was the first time her spinstership
had been taken as material for a compliment. Something in the girlish
giggle and the strangely young smile that swept twenty years from her
face and belied the silver lines in her hair, seemed to catch the old
bachelor's attention. He stared at her so fiercely that she looked
about for a way of escape. Then a curiously anxious, almost a hungry,
look softened his leonine jowls into a boyish eagerness, and his growl
became a sort of gruff purr:

"Say, you look something like an old sweetheart--er--friend--of mine.
Were you ever in Brattleboro, Vermont?"

A flush warmed her cheek, and a sense of home warmed her prim speech,
as she confessed:

"I came from there originally."

"So did I," said Ira Lathrop, leaning closer, and beaming like a big
sun: "I don't suppose you remember Ira Lathrop?"

The old maid stared at the bachelor as if she were trying to see the
boy she had known, through the mask that time had modeled on his face.
And then she was a girl again, and her voice chimed as she cried:

"Why, Ira!--Mr. Lathrop!--is it you?"

She gave him her hand--both her hands, and he smothered them in one
big paw and laid the other on for extra warmth, as he nodded his
savage head and roared as gentle as a sucking dove:

"Well, well! Annie--Anne--Miss Gattle! What do you think of that?"

They gossiped across the chasm of years about people and things, and
knew nothing of the excitement so close to them, saw nothing of
Chicago slipping back into the distance, with its many lights shooting
across the windows like hurled torches.

Suddenly a twinge of ancient jealousy shot through the man's heart,
recurring to old emotions.

"So you're not married, Annie. Whatever became of that fellow who used
to hang round you all the time?"

"Charlie Selby?" She blushed at the name, and thrilled at the luxury
of meeting jealousy. "Oh, he entered the church. He's a minister out
in Ogden, Utah."

"I always knew he'd never amount to much," was Lathrop's epitaph on
his old rival. Then he started with a new twinge: "You bound for
Ogden, too?"

"Oh, no," she smiled, enraptured at the new sensation of making a man
anxious, and understanding all in a flash the motives that make
coquettes. Then she told him her destination. "I'm on my way to
China."

"China!" he exclaimed. "So'm I!"

She stared at him with a new thought, and gushed: "Oh, Ira--are you a
missionary, too?"

"Missionary? Hell, no!" he roared. "Excuse me--I'm an importer--Anne,
I--I----"

But the sonorous swear reverberated in their ears like a smitten bell,
and he blushed for it, but could not recall it.



CHAPTER XII

THE NEEDLE IN THE HAYSTACK


The almost-married couple sat long in mutual terror and a common
paralysis of ingenuity. Marjorie, for lack of anything better to do,
was absent-mindedly twisting Snoozleums's ears, while he, that pocket
abridgment of a dog, in a well meaning effort to divert her from her
evident grief, made a great pretence of ferocity, growling and
threatening to bite her fingers off. The new ring attracted his
special jealousy. He was growing discouraged at the ill-success of his
impersonation of a wolf, and dejected at being so crassly ignored,
when he suddenly became, in his turn, a center of interest.

Marjorie was awakened from her trance of inanition by the porter's
voice. His plantation voice was ordinarily as thick and sweet as his
own New Orleans sorghum, but now it had a bitterness that curdled the
blood:

"'Scuse me, but how did you-all git that theah dog in this heah cah?"

"Snoozleums is always with me," said Marjorie briskly, as if that
settled it, and turned for confirmation to the dog himself, "aren't
you, Snoozleums?"

"Well," the porter drawled, trying to be gracious with his great
power, "the rules don't 'low no live stock in the sleepin' cars,
'ceptin' humans."

Marjorie rewarded his condescension with a blunt: "Snoozleums is more
human than you are."

"I p'sume he is," the porter admitted, "but he can't make up berths.
Anyway, the rules says dogs goes with the baggage."

Marjorie swept rules aside with a defiant: "I don't care. I won't be
separated from my Snoozleums."

She looked to Mallory for support, but he was too sorely troubled with
greater anxieties to be capable of any action.

The porter tried persuasion: "You betta lemme take him, the conducta
is wuss'n what I am. He th'owed a couple of dogs out the window trip
befo' last."

"The brute!"

"Oh, yassum, he is a regulah brute. He just loves to hear 'm splosh
when they light."

Noting the shiver that shook the girl, the porter offered a bit of
consolation:

"Better lemme have the pore little thing up in the baggage cah. He'll
be in charge of a lovely baggage-smasher."

"Are you sure he's a nice man?"

"Oh, yassum, he's death on trunks, but he's a natural born angel to
dogs."

"Well, if I must, I must," she sobbed. "Poor little Snoozleums! Can he
come back and see me to-morrow?" Marjorie's tears were splashing on
the puzzled dog, who nestled close, with a foreboding of disaster.

"I reckon p'haps you'd better visit him."

"Poor dear little Snoozleums--good night, my little darling. Poor
little child--it's the first night he's slept all by his 'ittle
lonesome, and----"

The porter was growing desperate. He clapped his hands together
impatiently and urged: "I think I hear that conducta comin'."

The ruse succeeded. Marjorie fairly forced the dog on him.
"Quick--hide him--hurry!" she gasped, and sank on the seat completely
crushed. "I'll be so lonesome without Snoozleums."

Mallory felt called upon to remind her of his presence. "I--I'm here,
Marjorie." She looked at him just once--at him, the source of all her
troubles--buried her head in her arms, and resumed her grief. Mallory
stared at her helplessly, then rose and bent over to whisper:

"I'm going to look through the train."

"Oh, don't leave me," she pleaded, clinging to him with a dependence
that restored his respect.

"I must find a clergyman," he whispered. "I'll be back the minute I
find one, and I'll bring him with me."

  [Illustration: MARJORIE FAIRLY FORCED THE DOG ON HIM....]

The porter thought he wanted the dog back, and quickened his pace
till he reached the corridor, where Mallory overtook him and asked, in
an effort at casual indifference, if he had seen anything of a
clergyman on board.

"Ain't seen nothin' that even looks like one," said the porter. Then
he hastened ahead to the baggage car with the squirming Snoozleums,
while Mallory followed slowly, going from seat to seat and car to car,
subjecting all the males to an inspection that rendered some of them
indignant, others of them uneasy.

If dear old Doctor Temple could only have known what Mallory was
hunting, he would have snatched off the mask, and thrown aside the
secular scarlet tie at all costs. But poor Mallory, unable to
recognize a clergyman so dyed-in-the-wool as Doctor Temple, sitting in
the very next seat--how could he be expected to pick out another in
the long and crowded train?

All clergymen look alike when they are in convention assembled, but
sprinkled through a crowd they are not so easily distinguished.

In the sleeping car bound for Portland, Mallory picked one man as a
clergyman. He had a lean, ascetic face, solemn eyes, and he was
talking to his seat-mate in an oratorical manner. Mallory bent down
and tapped the man's shoulder.

The effect was surprising. The man jumped as if he were stabbed, and
turned a pale, frightened face on Mallory, who murmured:

"Excuse me, do you happen to be a clergyman?"

A look of relief stole over the man's features, followed closely by a
scowl of wounded vanity:

"No, damn you, I don't happen to be a parson. I have chosen to
be--well, if you had watched the billboards in Chicago during our run,
you would not need to ask who I am!"

Mallory mumbled an apology and hurried on, just overhearing his
victim's sigh:

"Such is fame!"

He saw two or three other clerical persons in that car, but feared to
touch their shoulders. One man in the last seat held him specially,
and he hid in the turn of the corridor, in the hope of eavesdropping
some clue. This man was bent and scholastic of appearance, and wore
heavy spectacles and a heavy beard, which Mallory took for a guaranty
that he was not another actor. And he was reading what appeared to be
printer's proofs. Mallory felt certain that they were a volume of
sermons. He lingered timorously in the environs for some time before
the man spoke at all to the dreary-looking woman at his side. Then the
stranger spoke. And this is what he said and read:

"I fancy this will make the bigots sit up and take notice, mother: 'If
there ever was a person named Moses, it is certain, from the writings
ascribed to him, that he disbelieved the Egyptian theory of a life
after death, and combated it as a heathenish superstition. The Judaic
idea of a future existence was undoubtedly acquired from the
Assyrians, during the captivity.'"

He doubtless read much more, but Mallory fled to the next car. There
he found a man in a frock coat talking solemnly to another of equal
solemnity. The seat next them was unoccupied, and Mallory dropped into
it, perking his ears backward for news.

"Was you ever in Moline?" one voice asked.

"Was I?" the other muttered. "Wasn't I run out of there by one of my
audiences. I was givin' hypnotic demonstrations, and I had a run-in
with one of my 'horses,' and he done me dirt. Right in the midst of
one of his cataleptic trances, he got down from the chairs where I had
stretched him out and hollered: 'He's a bum faker, gents, and owes me
two weeks' pay.' Thank Gawd, there was a back door openin' on a dark
alley leadin' to the switch yard. I caught a caboose just as a freight
train was pullin' out."

Mallory could hardly get strength to rise and continue his search. On
his way forward he met the conductor, crossing a vestibule between
cars. A happy thought occurred to Mallory. He said:

"Excuse me, but have you any preachers on board?"

"None so far."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

"How can you tell?"

"Well, if a grown man offers me a half-fare ticket, I guess that's a
pretty good sign, ain't it?"

Mallory guessed that it was, and turned back, hopeless and helpless.



CHAPTER XIII

HOSTILITIES BEGIN


During Mallory's absence, Marjorie had met with a little adventure of
her own. Ira Lathrop finished his re-encounter with Anne Gattle
shortly after Mallory set out stalking clergymen. In the mingled
confusion of finding his one romantic flame still glowing on a vestal
altar, and of shocking her with an escape of profanity, he backed away
from her presence, and sank into his own berth.

He realized that he was not alone. Somebody was alongside. He turned
to find the great tear-sprent eyes of Marjorie staring at him. He rose
with a recrudescence of his woman-hating wrath, and dashing up the
aisle, found the porter just returning from the baggage car. He seized
the black factotum and growled:

"Say, porter, there's a woman in my berth."

The porter chuckled, incredulous:

"Woman in yo' berth!"

"Yes--get her out."

"Yassah," the porter nodded, and advanced on Marjorie with a gentle,
"'Scuse me, missus--ye' berth is numba one."

"I don't care," snapped Marjorie, "I won't take it."

"But this un belongs to that gentleman."

"He can have mine--ours--Mr. Mallory's," cried Marjorie, pointing to
the white-ribboned tent in the farther end of the car. Then she
gripped the arms of the seat, as if defying eviction. The porter
stared at her in helpless chagrin. Then he shuffled back and murmured:
"I reckon you'd betta put her out."

Lathrop withered the coward with one contemptuous look, and strode
down the aisle with a determined grimness. He took his ticket from his
pocket as a clinching proof of his title, and thrust it out at
Marjorie. She gave it one indifferent glance, and then her eyes and
mouth puckered, as if she had munched a green persimmon, and a long
low wail like a distant engine-whistle, stole from her lips. Ira
Lathrop stared at her in blank wrath, doddered irresolutely, and
roared:

"Agh, let her have it!"

The porter smiled triumphantly, and said: "She says you kin have her
berth." He pointed at the bridal arbor. Lathrop almost exploded at the
idea.

Now he felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned to see Little Jimmie
Wellington emerging from his berth with an enormous smile:

"Say, Pop, have you seen lovely rice-trap? Stick around till she
flops."

But Lathrop flung away to the smoking room. Little Jimmie turned to
the jovial negro:

"Porter, porter."

"I'm right by you."

"What time d'you say we get to Reno?"

"Mawnin' of the fo'th day, sah."

"Well, call me just before we roll in."

And he rolled in. His last words floated down the aisle and met Mrs.
Little Jimmie Wellington just returning from the Women's Room, where
she had sought nepenthe in more than one of her exquisite little
cigars. The familiar voice, familiarly bibulous, smote her ear with
amazement. She beckoned the porter to her anxiously.

"Porter! Porter! Do you know the name of the man who just hurried in?"

"No'm," said the porter. "I reckon he's so broken up he ain't got any
name left."

"It couldn't be," Mrs. Jimmie mused.

"Things can be sometimes," said the porter.

"You may make up my berth now," said Mrs. Wellington, forgetting that
Anne Gattle was still there. Mrs. Wellington hastened to apologize,
and begged her to stay, but the spinster wanted to be far away from
the disturbing atmosphere of divorce. She was dreaming already with
her eyes open, and she sank into number six in a lotus-eater's
reverie.

Mrs. Wellington gathered certain things together and took up her
handbag, to return to the Women's Room, just as Mrs. Whitcomb came
forth from the curtains of her own berth, where she had made certain
preliminaries to disrobing, and put on a light, decidedly negligée
negligée.

The two women collided in the aisle, whirled on one another, as women
do when they jostle, recognized each other with wild stares of
amazement, set their teeth, and made a simultaneous dash along the
corridor, shoulder wrestling with shoulder. They reached the door
marked "Women" at the same instant, and as neither would have dreamed
of offering the other a courtesy, they squeezed through together in a
Kilkenny jumble.



CHAPTER XIV

THE DORMITORY ON WHEELS


Of all the shocking institutions in human history, the sleeping car is
the most shocking--or would be, if we were not so used to it. There
can be no doubt that we are the most moral nation on earth, for we
admit it ourselves. Perhaps we prove it, too, by the Arcadian
prosperity of these two-story hotels on wheels, where miscellaneous
travelers dwell in complete promiscuity, and sleep almost side by
side, in apartments, or compartments, separated only by a plank and a
curtain, and guarded only by one sleepy negro.

After the fashion of the famous country whose inhabitants earned a
meagre sustenance by taking in each other's washing, so in Sleeping
Carpathia we attain a meagre respectability by everybody's chaperoning
everybody else.

So topsy-turvied, indeed, are our notions, once we are aboard a train,
that the staterooms alone are regarded with suspicion; we question the
motives of those who must have a room to themselves!--a room with a
real door! that locks!!

And, now, on this sleeping car, prettily named "Snowdrop," scenes were
enacting that would have thrown our great-grandmothers into
fits--scenes which, if we found them in France, or Japan, we should
view with alarm as almost unmentionable evidence of the moral
obliquity of those nations.

But this was our own country--the part of it which admits that it is
the best part--the moralest part, the staunch Middle West. This was
Illinois. Yet dozens of cars were beholding similar immodesties in
chastest Illinois, and all over the map, thousands of people, in
hundreds of cars, were permitting total strangers to view preparations
which have always, hitherto, been reserved for the most intimate and
legalized relations.

The porter was deftly transforming the day-coach into a narrow lane
entirely surrounded by portières. Behind most of the portières,
fluttering in the lightest breeze, and perilously following the hasty
passer-by, homely offices were being enacted. The population of this
little town was going to bed. The porter was putting them to sleep as
if they were children in a nursery, and he a black mammy.

The frail walls of little sanctums were bulging with the bodies of
people disrobing in the aisle, with nothing between them and the
beholder's eye but a clinging curtain that explained what it did not
reveal. From apertures here and there disembodied feet were protruding
and mysterious hands were removing shoes and other things.

Women in risky attire were scooting to one end of the car, and men in
shirt sleeves, or less, were hastening to the other.

When Mallory returned to the "Snowdrop," his ear was greeted by the
thud of dropping shoes. He found Marjorie being rapidly immured, like
Poe's prisoner, in a jail of closing walls.

She was unspeakably ill at ease, and by the irony of custom, the one
person on whom she depended for protection was the one person whose
contiguity was most alarming--and all for lack of a brief trialogue,
with a clergyman, as the _tertium quid_.

When Mallory's careworn face appeared round the edge of the partition
now erected between her and the abode of Doctor and Mrs. Temple,
Marjorie shivered anew, and asked with all anxiety:

"Did you find a minister?"

Perhaps the Recording Angel overlooked Mallory's answer: "Not a damn'
minister."

When he dropped at Marjorie's side, she edged away from him, pleading:
"Oh, what shall we do?"

He answered dismally and ineffectively: "We'll have to go on
pretending to be--just friends."

"But everybody thinks we're married."

"That's so!" he admitted, with the imbecility of fatigued hope. They
sat a while listening to the porter slipping sheets into place and
thumping pillows into cases, a few doors down the street. He would be
ready for them at any moment. Something must be done, but what? what?



CHAPTER XV

A PREMATURE DIVORCE


Suddenly Marjorie's heart gave a leap of joy. She was having another
idea. "I'll tell you, Harry. We'll pretend to quarrel, and then----"

"And then you can leave me in high dudgeon."

The ruse struck him as a trifle unconvincing. "Don't you think it
looks kind of improbable on--on--such an occasion?"

Marjorie blushed, and lowered her eyes and her voice: "Can you suggest
anything better?"

"No, but----"

"Then, we'll have to quarrel, darling."

He yielded, for lack of a better idea: "All right, beloved. How shall
we begin?"

On close approach, the idea did seem rather impossible to her. "How
could I ever quarrel with you, my love?" she cooed.

He gazed at her with a rush of lovely tenderness: "And how could I
ever speak crossly to you?"

"We never shall have a harsh word, shall we?" she resolved.

"Never!" he seconded. So that resolution passed the House
unanimously.

They held hands in luxury a while, then she began again: "Still, we
must pretend. You start it, love."

"No, you start it," he pleaded.

"You ought to," she beamed. "You got me into this mess."

The word slipped out. Mallory started: "Mess! How is it my fault? Good
Lord, are you going to begin chucking it up?"

"Well, you must admit, darling," Marjorie urged, "that you've bungled
everything pretty badly."

It was so undeniable that he could only groan: "And I suppose I'll
hear of this till my dying day, dearest."

Marjorie had a little temper all her own. So she defended it: "If you
are so afraid of my temper, love, perhaps you'd better call it all off
before it's too late."

"I didn't say anything about your temper, sweetheart," Mallory
insisted.

"You did, too, honey. You said I'd chuck this up till your dying day.
As if I had such a disposition! You can stay here." She rose to her
feet. He pressed her back with a decisive motion, and demanded: "Where
are you going?"

"Up in the baggage car with Snoozleums," she sniffled. "He's the only
one that doesn't find fault with me."

Mallory was stung to action by this crisis: "Wait," he said. He leaned
out and motioned down the alley. "Porter! Wait a moment, darling.
Porter!"

The porter arrived with a half-folded blanket in his hands, and his
usual, "Yassah!"

Beckoning him closer, Mallory mumbled in a low tone: "Is there an
extra berth on this car?"

The porter's eyes seemed to rebuke his ears. "Does you want this upper
made up?"

"No--of course not."

"Ex--excuse me, I thought----"

"Don't you dare to think!" Mallory thundered. "Isn't there another
lower berth?"

The porter breathed hard, and gave this bridal couple up as a riddle
that followed no known rules. He went to find the sleeping car
conductor, and returned with the information that the diagram showed
nobody assigned to number three.

"Then I'll take number three," said Mallory, poking money at the
porter. And still the porter could not understand.

"Now, lemme onderstan' you-all," he stammered. "Does you both move
over to numba three, or does yo'--yo' lady remain heah, while jest you
preambulates?"

"Just I preambulate, you black hound!" Mallory answered, in a
threatening tone. The porter could understand that, at least, and he
bristled away with a meek: "Yassah. Numba three is yours, sah."

The troubled features of the baffled porter cleared up as by magic
when he arrived at number three, for there he found his tyrant and
tormentor, the English invader.

He remembered how indignantly Mr. Wedgewood had refused to show his
ticket, how cocksure he was of his number, how he had leased the
porter's services as a sort of private nurse, and had paid no advance
royalties.

And now he was sprawled and snoring majestically among his many
luggages, like a sleeping lion. Revenge tasted good to the humble
porter; it tasted like a candied yam smothered in 'possum gravy. He
smacked his thick lips over this revenge. With all the insolence of a
servant in brief authority, he gloated over his prey, and prodded him
awake. Then murmured with hypocritical deference: "Excuse me, but
could I see yo' ticket for yo' seat?"

"Certainly not! It's too much trouble," grumbled the half asleeper.
"Confound you!"

The porter lured him on: "Is you sho' you got one?"

Wedgewood was wide awake now, and surly as any Englishman before
breakfast: "Of cawse I'm shaw. How dare you?"

"Too bad, but I'm 'bleeged to ask you to gimme a peek at it."

"This is an outrage!"

"Yassah, but I just nachelly got to see it."

Wedgewood gathered himself together, and ransacked his many pockets
with increasing anger, muttering under his breath. At length he
produced the ticket, and thrust it at the porter: "Thah, you idiot,
are you convinced now?"

The porter gazed at the billet with ill-concealed triumph. "Yassah.
I's convinced," Mr. Wedgewood settled back and closed his eyes. "I's
convinced that you is in the wrong berth!"

"Impossible! I won't believe you!" the Englishman raged, getting to
his feet in a fury.

"Perhaps you'll believe Mista Ticket," the porter chortled. "He says
numba ten, and that's ten across the way and down the road a piece."

"This is outrageous! I decline to move."

"You may decline, but you move just the same," the porter said,
reaching out for his various bags and carryalls. "The train moves and
you move with it."

Wedgewood stood fast: "You had no right to put me in here in the first
place."

The porter disdained to refute this slander. He stumbled down the
aisle with the bundles. "It's too bad, it's sutt'nly too bad, but you
sholy must come along."

Wedgewood followed, gesticulating violently.

"Here--wait--how dare you! And that berth is made up. I don't want to
go to bed now!"

"Mista Ticket says, 'Go to baid!'"

"Of all the disgusting countries! Heah, don't put that thah--heah."

The porter flung his load anywhere, and absolved himself with a curt,
"I's got otha passengers to wait on now."

"I shall certainly report you to the company," the Englishman fumed.

"Yassah, I p'sume so."

"Have I got to go to bed now? Really, I----" but the porter was gone,
and the irate foreigner crawled under his curtains, muttering: "I
shall write a letter to the _London Times_ about this."

To add to his misery, Mrs. Whitcomb came from the Women's Room, and as
she passed him, she prodded him with one sharp elbow and twisted the
corner of her heel into his little toe. He thrust his head out with
his fiercest, "How dare you!" But Mrs. Whitcomb was fresh from a
prolonged encounter with Mrs. Wellington, and she flung back a
venomous glare that sent the Englishman to cover.

The porter reveled in his victory till he had to dash out to the
vestibule to give vent to hilarious yelps of laughter. When he had
regained composure, he came back to Mallory, and bent over him to say:

"Yo' berth is empty, sah. Shall I make it up?"

Mallory nodded, and turned to Marjorie, with a sad, "Good night,
darling."

The porter rolled his eyes again, and turned away, only to be
recalled by Marjorie's voice: "Porter, take this old handbag out of
here."

The porter thought of the vanquished Lathrop, exiled to the smoking
room, and he answered: "That belongs to the gemman what owns this
berth."

"Put it in number one," Marjorie commanded, with a queenly gesture.

The porter obeyed meekly, wondering what would happen next. He had no
sooner deposited Lathrop's valise among the incongruous white ribbons,
than Marjorie recalled him to say: "And, Porter, you may bring me my
own baggage."

"Yo' what--missus?"

"Our handbags, idiot," Mallory explained, peevishly.

"I ain't seen no handbags of you-alls," the porter protested. "You-all
didn't have no handbags when you got on this cah."

Mallory jumped as if he had been shot. "Good Lord, I remember! We left
'em in the taxicab!"

The porter cast his hands up, and walked away from the tragedy.
Marjorie stared at Mallory in horror.

"We had so little time to catch the train," Mallory stammered.
Marjorie leaped to her feet: "I'm going up in the baggage car."

"For the dog?"

"For my trunk."

And now Mallory annihilated her completely, for he gasped: "Our
trunks went on the train ahead!"

Marjorie fell back for one moment, then bounded to her feet with
shrill commands: "Porter! Porter! I want you to stop this train this
minute!"

The porter called back from the depths of a berth: "This train don't
stop till to-morrow noon."

Marjorie had strength enough for only one vain protest: "Do you mean
to say that I've got to go to San Francisco in this waist--a waist
that has seen a whole day in Chicago?"

The best consolation Mallory could offer was companionship in misery.
He pushed forward one not too immaculate cuff. "Well, this is the only
linen I have."

"Don't speak to me," snapped Marjorie, beating her heels against the
floor.

"But, my darling!"

"Go away and leave me. I hate you!"

Mallory rose up, and stumbling down the aisle, plounced into berth
number three, an allegory of despair.

About this time, Little Jimmie Wellington, having completed more or
less chaotic preparations for sleep, found that he had put on his
pyjamas hindside foremost. After vain efforts to whirl round quickly
and get at his own back, he put out a frowsy head, and called for
help.

"Say, Porter, Porter!"

"I'm still on the train," answered the porter, coming into view.

"You'll have to hook me up."

The porter rendered what aid and correction he could in Wellington's
hippopotamine toilet. Wellington was just wide enough awake to discern
the undisturbed bridal-chamber. He whined:

"Say, Porter, that rice-trap. Aren't they going to flop the
rice-trap?"

The porter shook his head sadly. "Don't look like that floppers
a'goin' to flip. That dog-on bridal couple is done divorced a'ready!"



CHAPTER XVI

GOOD NIGHT, ALL!


The car was settling gradually into peace. But there was still some
murmur and drowsy energy. Shoes continued to drop, heads to bump
against upper berths, the bell to ring now and then, and ring again
and again.

The porter paid little heed to it; he was busy making up number five
(Ira Lathrop's berth) for Marjorie, who was making what preparations
she could for her trousseauless, husbandless, dogless first night out.

Finally the Englishman, who had almost rung the bell dry of
electricity, shoved from his berth his indignant and undignified head.
Once more the car resounded with the cry of "Pawtah! Pawtah!"

The porter moved up with noticeable deliberation. "Did you ring, sah?"

"Did I ring! Paw-tah, you may draw my tub at eight-thutty in the
mawning."

"Draw yo'--what, sah?" the porter gasped.

"My tub."

"Ba-ath tub?"

"Bahth tub."

"Lawdy, man. Is you allowin' to take a ba-ath in the mawnin'?"

"Of course I am."

"Didn't you have one befo' you stahted?"

"How dare you! Of cawse I did."

"Well, that's all you git."

"Do you mean to tell me that there is no tub on this beastly train?"
Wedgewood almost fell out of bed with the shock of this news.

"We do not carry tubs--no, sah. There's a lot of tubs in San
Francisco, though."

"No tub on this train for four days!" Wedgewood sighed. "But whatever
does one do in the meanwhile?"

"One just waits. Yassah, one and all waits."

"It's ghahstly, that's what it is, ghahstly."

"Yassah," said the porter, and mumbled as he walked away, "but the
weather is gettin' cooler."

He finished preparing Marjorie's bunk, and was just suggesting that
Mallory retreat to the smoking room while number three was made up,
when there was a commotion in the corridor, and a man in checked
overalls dashed into the car.

His ear was slightly red, and he held at arm's length, as if it were a
venomous monster, Snoozleums. And he yelled:

"Say, whose durn dog is this? He bit two men, and he makes so much
noise we can't sleep in the baggage car."

Marjorie went flying down the aisle to reclaim her lost lamb in wolf's
clothing, and Snoozleums, the returned prodigal, yelped and leaped,
and told her all about the indignities he had been subjected to, and
his valiant struggle for liberty.

Marjorie, seeing only Snoozleums, stepped into the fatal berth number
one, and paid no heed to the dangling ribbons. Mallory, eager to
restore himself to her love by loving her dog, crowded closer to her
side, making a hypocritical ado over the pup.

Everybody was popping his or her face out to learn the cause of such
clamor. Among the bodiless heads suspended along the curtains, like
Dyak trophies, appeared the great mask of Little Jimmie Wellington. He
had been unable to sleep for mourning the wanton waste of that lovely
rice-trap.

When he peered forth, his eyes hardly believed themselves. The elusive
bride and groom were actually in the trap--the hen pheasant and the
chanticleer. But the net did not fall. He waited to see them sit down,
and spring the infernal machine. But they would not sit.

In fact, Marjorie was muttering to Harry--tenderly, now, since he had
won her back by his efforts to console Snoozleums--she was muttering
tenderly:

"We must not be seen together, honey. Go away, I'll see you in the
morning."

And Mallory was saying with bitterest resignation: "Good night--my
friend."

And they were shaking hands! This incredible bridal couple was shaking
hands with itself--disintegrating! Then Wellington determined to do at
least his duty by the sacred rites.

The gaping passengers saw what was probably the largest pair of
pyjamas in Chicago. They saw Little Jimmie, smothering back his
giggles like a schoolboy, tiptoe from his berth, enter the next berth,
brushing the porter aside, climb on the seat, and clutch the ribbon
that pulled the stopper from the trap.

Down upon the unsuspecting elopers came this miraculous cloudburst of
ironical rice, and with it came Little Jimmie Wellington, who lost
what little balance he had, and catapulted into their midst like the
offspring of an iceberg.

It was at this moment that Mrs. Wellington, hearing the loud cries of
the panic-stricken Marjorie, rushed from the Women's Room,
absent-mindedly combing a totally detached section of her hair. She
recognized familiar pyjamas waving in air, and with one faint gasp:
"Jimmie! on this train!" she swooned away. She would have fallen, but
seeing that no one paid any attention to her, she recovered
consciousness on her own hook, and vanished into her berth, to
meditate on the whys and wherefores of her husband's presence in this
car.

  [Illustration: DOWN UPON THE UNSUSPECTING ELOPERS CAME THIS
   MIRACULOUS CLOUDBURST OF IRONICAL RICE....]

Dr. Temple in a nightgown and trousers, Roger Ashton in a collarless
estate, and the porter, managed to extricate Mr. Wellington from
his plight, and stow him away, though it was like putting a whale to
bed.

Mallory, seeing that Marjorie had fled, vented his wild rage against
fate in general, and rice traps in particular, by tearing the bridal
bungalow to pieces, and then he stalked into the smoking room, where
Ira Lathrop, homeless and dispossessed, was sound asleep, with his
feet in the chair.

He was dreaming that he was a boy in Brattleboro, the worst boy in
Brattleboro, trying to get up the courage to spark pretty Anne Gattle,
and throwing rocks at the best boy in town, Charlie Selby, who was
always at her side. The porter woke Ira, an hour later, and escorted
him to the late bridal section.

Marjorie had fled with her dog, as soon as she could grope her way
through the deluge of rice. She hopped into her berth, and spent an
hour trying to clear her hair of the multitudinous grains. And as for
Snoozleums, his thick wool was so be-riced that for two days, whenever
he shook himself, he snew.

Eventually, the car quieted, and nothing was heard but the rumble and
click of the wheels on the rails, the creak of timbers, and the
frog-like chorus of a few well-trained snorers. As the porter was
turning down the last of the lights, a rumpled pate was thrust from
the stateroom, and the luscious-eyed man whispered:

"Porter, what time did you say we crossed the Iowa State line?"

"Two fifty-five A.M."

From within the stateroom came a deep sigh, then with a dismal groan:
"Call me at two fifty-five A.M.," the door was closed.

Poor Mallory, pyjamaless and night-shirtless, lay propped up on his
pillows, staring out of the window at the swiftly shifting night
scene. The State of Illinois was being pulled out from under the train
like a dark rug.

Farmhouses gleamed or dreamed lampless. The moonlight rippled on
endless seas of wheat and Indian corn. Little towns slid up and away.
Large towns rolled forward, and were left behind. Ponds, marshes,
brooks, pastures, thickets and great gloomy groves flowed past as on a
river. But the same stars and the moon seemed to accompany the train.
If the flying witness had been less heavy of heart, he would have
found the reeling scene full of grace and night beauty. But he could
not see any charm in all the world, except his tantalizing other self,
from whom a great chasm seemed to divide him, though she was only two
windows away.

He had not yet fallen asleep, and he was still pondering how to attain
his unmarried, unmarriable bride, when the train rolled out in air
above a great wide river, very noble under the stars. He knew it for
the Mississippi. He heard a faint knocking on a door at the other end
of the car. He heard sounds as of kisses, and then somebody tiptoed
along the aisle stealthily. He did not know that another bridegroom
was being separated from his bride because they were too much married.

Somewhere in Iowa he fell asleep.



CHAPTER XVII

LAST CALL FOR BREAKFAST


It was still Iowa when Mallory awoke. Into his last moments of heavy
sleep intruded a voice like a town-crier's voice, crying:

"Lass call for breakfuss in the Rining Rar," and then, again louder,
"Lass call for breakfuss in Rinin-rar," and, finally and faintly,
"Lasscall breakfuss ri'rar."

Mallory pushed up his window shade. The day was broad on rolling
prairies like billows established in the green soil. He peeked through
his curtains. Most of the other passengers were up and about, their
beds hidden and beddings stowed away behind the bellying veneer of the
upperworks of the car. All the berths were made up except his own and
number two, in the corner, where Little Jimmie Wellington's nose still
played a bagpipe monody, and one other berth, which he recognized as
Marjorie's.

His belated sleep and hers had spared them both the stares and
laughing chatter of the passengers. But this bridal couple's two
berths, standing like towers among the seats had provided
conversation for everybody, had already united the casual group of
strangers into an organized gossip-bee.

Mallory got into his shoes and as much of his clothes as was necessary
for the dash to the washroom, and took on his arm the rest of his
wardrobe. Just as he issued from his lonely chamber, Marjorie appeared
from hers, much disheveled and heavy-eyed. The bride and groom
exchanged glances of mutual terror, and hurried in opposite
directions.

The spickest and spannest of lieutenants soon realized that he was
reduced to wearing yesterday's linen as well as yesterday's beard.
This was intolerable. A brave man can endure heartbreaks, loss of
love, honor and place, but a neat man cannot abide the traces of time
in his toilet. Lieutenant Mallory had seen rough service in camp and
on long hikes, when he gloried in mud and disorder, and he was to see
campaigns in the Philippines, when he should not take off his shoes or
his uniform for three days at a time. But that was the field, and this
car was a drawing room.

In this crisis in his affairs, Little Jimmie Wellington waddled into
the men's room, floundering about with every lurch of the train, like
a cannon loose in the hold of a ship. He fumbled with the handles on a
basin, and made a crazy toilet, trying to find some abatement of his
fever by filling a glass at the ice-water tank and emptying it over
his head.

These drastic measures restored him to some sort of coherency, and
Mallory appealed to him for help in the matter of linen. Wellington
effusively offered him everything he had, and Mallory selected from
his store half a dozen collars, any one of which would have gone round
his neck nearly twice.

Wellington also proffered his safety razor, and made him a present of
a virgin wafer of steel for his very own.

With this assistance, Mallory was enabled to make himself fairly
presentable. When he returned to his seat, the three curtained rooms
had been whisked away by the porter. There was no place now to hide
from the passengers.

He sat down facing the feminine end of the car, watching for Marjorie.
The passengers were watching for her, too, hoping to learn what
unheard-of incident could have provoked the quarrel that separated a
bride and groom at this time, of all times.

To the general bewilderment, when Marjorie appeared, Mallory and she
rushed together and clasped hands with an ardor that suggested a
desire for even more ardent greeting. The passengers almost sprained
their ears to hear how they would make up such a dreadful feud. But
all they heard was: "We'll have to hurry, Marjorie, if we want to get
any breakfast."

"All right, honey. Come along."

Then the inscrutable couple scurried up the aisle, and disappeared in
the corridor, leaving behind them a mighty riddle. They kissed in the
corridor of that car, kissed in the vestibule, kissed in the two
corridors of the next car, and were caught kissing in the next
vestibule by the new conductor.

The dining car conductor, who flattered himself that he knew a bride
and groom when he saw them, escorted them grandly to a table for two;
and the waiter fluttered about them with extraordinary consideration.

They had a plenty to talk of in prospect and retrospect. They both
felt sure that a minister lurked among the cars somewhere, and they
ate with a zest to prepare for the ceremony, arguing the best place
for it, and quarreling amorously over details. Mallory was for one of
the vestibules as the scene of their union, but Marjorie was for the
baggage car, till she realized that Snoozleums might be unwilling to
attend. Then she swung round to the vestibule, but Mallory shifted to
the observation platform.

Marjorie had left Snoozleums with Mrs. Temple, who promised to hide
him when the new conductor passed through the car, and she reminded
Harry to get the waiter to bring them a package of bones for their
only "child," so far.

On the way back from the dining car they kissed each other good-bye
again at all the trysting places they had sanctified before. The sun
was radiant, the world good, and the very train ran with jubilant
rejoicing. They could not doubt that a few more hours would see them
legally man and wife.

Mallory restored Marjorie to her place in their car, and with smiles
of assurance, left her for another parson-hunt through the train. She
waited for him in a bridal agitation. He ransacked the train forward
in vain, and returned, passing Marjorie with a shake of the head and a
dour countenance. He went out to the observation platform, where he
stumbled on Ira Lathrop and Anne Gattle, engaged in a conversation of
evident intimacy, for they jumped when he opened the door, as if they
were guilty of some plot.

Mallory mumbled his usual, "Excuse me," whirled on his heel, and
dragged his discouraged steps back through the Observation Room, where
various women and a few men of evident unclericality were draped
across arm chairs and absorbed in lazy conversation or bobbing their
heads over magazines that trembled with the motion of the train.

Mrs. Wellington was busily writing at the desk, but he did not know
who she was, and he did not care whom she was writing to. He did not
observe the baleful glare of Mrs. Whitcomb, who sat watching Mrs.
Wellington, knowing all too well who she was, and suspecting the
correspondent--Mrs. Whitcomb was tempted to spell the word with one
"r."

Mallory stumbled into the men's portion of the composite car. Here he
nodded with a sickly cheer to the sole occupant, Dr. Temple, who was
looking less ministerial than ever in an embroidered skull cap. The
old rascal was sitting far back on his lumbar vertebræ. One of his
hands clasped a long glass filled with a liquid of a hue that
resembled something stronger than what it was--mere ginger ale. The
other hand toyed with a long black cigar. The smoke curled round the
old man's head like the fumes of a sultan's narghilé, and through the
wisps his face was one of Oriental luxury.

Mallory's eyes were caught from this picture of beatitude by the
entrance, at the other door, of a man who had evidently swung aboard
at the most recent stop--for Mallory had not seen him. His gray hair
was crowned with a soft black hat, and his spare frame was swathed in
a frock coat that had seen better days. His soft gray eyes seemed to
search timidly the smoke-clouded atmosphere, and he had a bashful air
which Mallory translated as one of diffidence in a place where liquors
and cigars were dispensed.

With equal diffidence Mallory advanced, and in a low tone accosted the
newcomer cautiously:

"Excuse me--you look like a clergyman."

"The hell you say!"

Mallory pursued the question no further.



CHAPTER XVIII

IN THE COMPOSITE CAR


It was the gentle stranger's turn to miss his guess. He bent over the
chair into which Mallory had flopped, and said in a tense, low tone:
"You look like a t'oroughbred sport. I'm trying to make up a game of
stud poker. Will you join me?"

Mallory shook his heavy head in refusal, and with dull eyes watched
the man, whose profession he no longer misunderstood, saunter up to
the blissful Doctor from Ypsilanti, and murmur again:

"Will you join me?"

"Join you in what, sir?" said Dr. Temple, with alert courtesy.

"A little game."

"I don't mind," the doctor smiled, rising with amiable readiness. "The
checkers are in the next room."

"Quit your kiddin'," the stranger coughed. "How about a little
freeze-out?"

"Freeze-out?" said Dr. Temple. "It sounds interesting. Is it something
like authors?"

The newcomer shot a quick glance at this man, whose innocent air he
suspected. But he merely drawled: "Well, you play it with cards."

"Would you mind teaching me the rules?" said the old sport from
Ypsilanti.

The gambler was growing suspicious of this too, too childlike
innocence. He whined: "Say, what's your little game, eh?" but decided
to risk the venture. He sat down at a table, and Dr. Temple, bringing
along his glass, drew up a chair. The gambler took a pack of cards
from his pocket, and shuffled them with a snap that startled Dr.
Temple and a dexterity that delighted him.

"Go on, it's beautiful to see," he exclaimed. The gambler set the pack
down with the one word "Cut!" but since the old man made no effort to
comply, the gambler did not insist. He took up the pack again and ran
off five cards to each place with a grace that staggered the doctor.

Mallory was about to intervene for the protection of the guileless
physician when the conductor chanced to saunter in.

The gambler, seeing him, snatched Dr. Temple's cards from his hand and
slipped the pack into his pocket.

"What's the matter now?" Dr. Temple asked, but the newcomer huskily
answered: "Wait a minute. Wait a minute."

The conductor took in the scene at a glance and, stalking up to the
table, spoke with the grimness of a sea-captain: "Say, I've got my eye
on you. Don't start nothin'."

The stranger stared at him wonderingly and demanded: "Why, what you
drivin' at?"

"You know all right," the conductor growled, and then turned on the
befuddled old clergyman, "and you, too."

"Me, too?" the preacher gasped.

"Yes, you, too," the conductor repeated, shaking an accusing
forefinger under his nose. "Your actions have been suspicious from the
beginning. We've all been watching you."

Dr. Temple was so agitated that he nearly let fall his secret. "Why,
do you realize that I'm a----"

"Ah, don't start that," sneered the conductor, "I can spot a gambler
as far as I can see one. You and your side partner here want to look
out, that's all, or I'll drop you at the next tank." Then he walked
out, his very shoulder blades uttering threats.

Dr. Temple stared after him, but the gambler stared at Dr. Temple with
a mingling of accusation and of homage. "So you're one of us," he
said, and seizing the old man's limp hand, shook it heartily: "I got
to slip it to you. Your make-up is great. You nearly had me for a
come-on. Great!"

And then he sauntered out, leaving the clergyman's head swimming. Dr.
Temple turned to Mallory for explanations, but Mallory only waved him
away. He was not quite convinced himself. He was convinced only that
whatever else anybody might be, nobody apparently desired to be a
clergyman in these degenerate days.

The conductor returned and threw into Dr. Temple the glare of two
basilisk eyes. The old man put out a beseeching hand and began:

"My good man, you do me a grave injustice."

The conductor snapped back: "You say a word to me and I'll do you
worse than that. And if I spot you with a pack of cards in your hand
again, I'll tie you to the cow-ketcher."

Then he marched off again. The doctor fell back into a chair, trying
to figure it out. Then Ashton and Fosdick and little Jimmie Wellington
and Wedgewood strolled in and, dropping into chairs, ordered drinks.
Before the doctor could ask anybody to explain, Ashton was launched on
a story. His mind was a suitcase full of anecdotes, mostly of the
smoking-room order.

Wherever three or four men are gathered together, they rapidly
organize a clearing-house of off-color stories. The doctor listened in
spite of himself, and in spite of himself he was amused, for stories
that would be stupid if they were decent, take on a certain verve and
thrill from their very forbiddenness.

The dear old clergyman felt that it would be priggish to take flight,
but he could not make the corners of his mouth behave. Strange
twitchings of the lips and little steamy escapes of giggle-jets
disturbed him. And when Ashton, who was a practiced raconteur,
finished a drolatic adventure with the epilogue, "And the next morning
they were at Niagara Falls," the old doctor was helpless with
laughter. Some superior force, a devil no doubt, fairly shook him with
glee.

"Oh, that's bully," he shrieked, "I haven't heard a story like that
for ages."

"Why, where have you been, Dr. Temple?" asked Ashton, who could not
imagine where a man could have concealed himself from such stories.
But he laughed loudest of all when the doctor answered: "You see, I
live in Ypsilanti. They don't tell me stories like that."

"They--who?" said Fosdick.

"Why, my pa--my patients," the doctor explained, and laughed so hard
that he forgot to feel guilty, laughed so hard that his wife in the
next room heard him and giggled to Mrs. Whitcomb:

"Listen to dear Walter. He hasn't laughed like that since he was a--a
medical student." Then she buried her face guiltily in a book.

"Wasn't it good?" Dr. Temple demanded, wiping his streaming eyes and
nudging the solemn-faced Englishman, who understood his own nation's
humor, but had not yet learned the Yankee quirks.

Wedgewood made a hollow effort at laughter and answered:
"Extremely--very droll, but what I don't quite get was--why the
porter said----" The others drowned him in a roar of laughter, but
Ashton was angry. "Why, you blamed fool, that's where the joke came
in. Don't you see, the bridegroom said to the bride----" then he
lowered his voice and diagrammed the story on his fingers.

Mrs. Temple was still shaking with sympathetic laughter, never
dreaming what her husband was laughing at. She turned to Mrs.
Whitcomb, but Mrs. Whitcomb was still glaring at Mrs. Wellington, who
was still writing with flying fingers and underscoring every other
word.

"Some people seem to think they own the train," Mrs. Whitcomb raged.
"That creature has been at the writing desk an hour. The worst of it
is, I'm sure she's writing to _my_ husband."

Mrs. Temple looked shocked, but another peal of laughter came through
the partition between the male and female sections of the car, and she
beamed again. Then Mrs. Wellington finished her letter, glanced it
over, addressed an envelope, sealed and stamped it with a deliberation
that maddened Mrs. Whitcomb. When at last she rose, Mrs. Whitcomb was
in the seat almost before Mrs. Wellington was out of it.

Mrs. Wellington paused at another wave of laughter from the men's
room. She commented petulantly:

"What good times men have. They've formed a club in there already. We
women can only sit around and hate each other."

"Why, I don't hate anybody, do you?" Mrs. Temple exclaimed, looking up
from the novel she had found on the book shelves. Mrs. Wellington
dropped into the next chair:

"On a long railroad journey I hate everybody. Don't you hate long
journeys?"

"It's the first I ever took," Mrs. Temple apologized, radiantly, "And
I'm having the--what my oldest boy would call the time of my life. And
dear Walter--such goings on for him! A few minutes ago I strolled by
the door and I saw him playing cards with a stranger, and smoking and
drinking, too, all at once."

"Boys will be boys," said Mrs. Wellington.

"But for Dr. Temple of all people----"

"Why shouldn't a doctor? It's a shame the way men have everything.
Think of it, a special smoking room. And women have no place to take a
puff except on the sly."

Mrs. Temple stared at her in awe: "The woman in this book
smokes!--perfumed things!"

"All women smoke nowadays," said Mrs. Wellington, carelessly. "Don't
you?"

The politest thing Mrs. Temple could think of in answer was: "Not
yet."

"Really!" said Mrs. Wellington, "Don't you like tobacco?"

"I never tried it."

"It's time you did. I smoke cigars myself."

Mrs. Temple almost collapsed at this double shock: "Ci--cigars?"

"Yes; cigarettes are too strong for me; will you try one of my pets?"

Mrs. Temple was about to express her repugnance at the thought, but
Mrs. Wellington thrust before her a portfolio in which nestled such
dainty shapes of such a warm and winsome brown, that Mrs. Temple
paused to stare, and, like Mother Eve, found the fruit of knowledge
too interesting once seen to reject with scorn. She hung over the
cigar case in hesitant excitement one moment too long. Then she said
in a trembling voice: "I--I should like to try once--just to see what
it's like. But there's no place."

Mrs. Wellington felt that she had already made a proselyte to her own
beloved vice, and she rushed her victim to the precipice: "There's the
observation platform, my dear. Come on out."

Mrs. Temple was shivering with dismay at the dreadful deed: "What
would they say in Ypsilanti?"

"What do you care? Be a sport. Your husband smokes. If it's right for
him, why not for you?"

Mrs. Temple set her teeth and crossed the Rubicon with a resolute "I
will!"

Mrs. Wellington led the timid neophyte along the wavering floor of
the car and flung back the door of the observation car. She found Ira
Lathrop holding Anne Gattle's hand and evidently explaining something
of great importance, for their heads were close together. They rose
and with abashed faces and confused mumblings of half swallowed
explanations, left the platform to Mrs. Wellington and her new pupil.

Shortly afterward Little Jimmie Wellington grew restive and set out
for a brief constitutional and a breath of air. He carried a siphon to
which he had become greatly attached, and made heavy going of the
observation room, but reached the door in fairly good order. He swung
it open and brought in with it the pale and wavering ghost of Mrs.
Temple, who had been leaning against it for much-needed support.
Wellington was stupefied to observe smoke pouring round Mrs. Temple's
form, and he resolved to perform a great life-saving feat. He decided
that the poor little woman was on fire and he poised the siphon like a
fire extinguisher, with the noble intention of putting her out.

He pressed the handle, and a stream of vichy shot from the nozzle.

Fortunately, his aim was so very wobbly that none of the extinguisher
touched Mrs. Temple.

Wellington was about to play the siphon at her again when he saw her
take from her lips a toy cigar and emit a stream of cough-shaken
smoke. The poor little experimentalist was too wretched to notice
even so large a menace as Wellington. She threw the cigar away and
gasped:

"I think I've had enough."

From the platform came a voice very well known to Little Jimmie. It
said: "You'll like the second one better."

Mrs. Temple shuddered at the thought, but Wellington drew himself up
majestically and called out:

"Like second one better, eh? I suppozhe it's the same way with
husbandsh."

Then he stalked back to the smoking room, feeling that he had
annihilated his wife, but knowing from experience that she always had
a come-back. He knew it would be good, but he was afraid to hear it.
He rolled into the smoking room, and sprawling across Doctor Temple's
shoulders, dragged him from the midst of a highly improper story with
alarming news.

"Doc., your wife looks kind o' seedy. Better go to her at once."

Dr. Temple leaped to his feet and ran to his wife's aid. He found her
a dismal, ashen sight.

"Sally! What on earth ails you?"

"Been smok-oking," she hiccoughed.

The world seemed to be crashing round Dr. Temple's head. He could only
gurgle, "Sally!"

Mrs. Temple drew herself up with weak defiance: "Well, I saw you
playing cards and drinking."

In the presence of such innocent deviltry he could only smile: "Aren't
we having an exciting vacation? But to think of you smoking!--and a
cigar!"

She tossed her head in pride. "And it didn't make me sick--much." She
clutched a chair. He tried to support her. He could not help
pondering: "What would they say in Yp-hip-silanti?"

"Who cares?" she laughed. "I--I wish the old train wouldn't rock so."

"I--I've smoked too much, too," said Dr. Temple with perfect truth,
but Mrs. Temple, remembering that long glass she had seen, narrowed
her eyes at him: "Are you sure it was the smoke?"

"Sally!" he cried, in abject horror at her implied suspicion.

Then she turned a pale green. "Oh, I feel such a qualm."

"In your conscience, Sally?"

"No, not in my conscience. I think I'll go back to my berth and lie
down."

"Let me help you, Mother."

And Darby and Joan hurried along the corridor, crowding it as they
were crowding their vacation with belated experience.



CHAPTER XIX

FOILED!


It was late in the forenoon before the train came to the end of its
iron furrow across that fertile space between two of the world's
greatest rivers, which the Indians called "Iowa," nobody knows exactly
why. In contrast with the palisades of the Mississippi, the Missouri
twists like a great brown dragon wallowing in congenial mud. The water
itself, as Bob Brudette said, is so muddy that the wind blowing across
it raises a cloud of dust.

A sonorous bridge led the way into Nebraska, and the train came to a
halt at Omaha. Mallory and Marjorie got out to stretch their legs and
their dog. If they had only known that the train was to stop there the
quarter of an hour, and if they had only known some preacher there and
had had him to the station, the ceremony could have been consummated
then and there.

The horizon was fairly saw-toothed with church spires. There were
preachers, preachers everywhere, and not a dominie to do their deed.

After they had strolled up and down the platform, and up and down,
and up and down till they were fain of their cramped quarters again,
Marjorie suddenly dug her nails into Mallory's arm.

"Honey! look!--look!"

Honey looked, and there before their very eyes stood as clerical a
looking person as ever announced a strawberry festival.

Mallory stared and stared, till Marjorie said:

"Don't you see? stupid! it's a preacher! a preacher!"

"It looks like one," was as far as Mallory would commit himself, and
he was turning away. He had about come to the belief that anything
that looked like a parson was something else. But Marjorie whirled him
round again, with a shrill whisper to listen. And he overheard in
tones addicted to the pulpit:

"Yes, deacon, I trust that the harvest will be plentiful at my new
church. It grieves me to leave the dear brothers and sisters in the
Lord in Omaha, but I felt called to wider pastures."

And a lady who was evidently Mrs. Deacon spoke up:

"We'll miss you terrible. We all say you are the best pastor our
church ever had."

Mallory prepared to spring on his prey and drag him to his lair, but
Marjorie held him back.

"He's taking our train, Lord bless his dear old soul."

And Mallory could have hugged him. But he kept close watch. To the
rapture of the wedding-hungry twain, the preacher shook hands with
such of his flock as had followed him to the station, picked up his
valise and walked up to the porter, extending his ticket.

But the porter said--and Mallory could have throttled him for saying
it:

"'Scuse me, posson, but that's yo' train ova yonda. You betta move
right smaht, for it's gettin' ready to pull out."

With a little shriek of dismay, the parson clutched his valise and set
off at a run. Mallory dashed after him and Marjorie after Mallory.
They shouted as they ran, but the conductor of the east-bound train
sang out "All aboard!" and swung on.

The parson made a sprint and caught the ultimate rail of the moving
train. Mallory made a frantic leap at a flying coat-tail and missed.
As he and Marjorie stood gazing reproachfully at the train which was
giving a beautiful illustration of the laws of retreating perspective,
they heard wild howls of "Hi! hi!" and "Hay! hay!" and turned to see
their own train in motion, and the porter dancing a Zulu step
alongside.



CHAPTER XX

FOILED AGAIN


Mallory tucked Marjorie under his arm and Marjorie tucked Snoozleums
under hers, and they did a Sort of three-legged race down the
platform. The porter was pale blue with excitement, and it was with
the last gasp of breath in all three bodies that they scrambled up the
steps of the only open vestibule.

The porter was mad enough to give them a piece of his mind, and they
were meek enough to take it without a word of explanation or
resentment.

And the train sped on into the heart of Nebraska, along the unpoetic
valley of the Platte. When lunch-time came, they ate it together, but
in gloomy silence. They sat in Marjorie's berth throughout the
appallingly monotonous afternoon in a stupor of disappointment and
helpless dejection, speaking little and saying nothing then.

Whenever the train stopped, Mallory watched the on-getting passengers
with his keenest eye. He had a theory that since most people who
looked like preachers were decidedly lay, it might be well to take a
gambler's chance and accost the least ministerial person next.

So, in his frantic anxiety, he selected a horsey-looking individual
who got on at North Platte. He looked so much like a rawhided ranchman
that Mallory stole up on him and asked him to excuse him, but did he
happen to be a clergyman? The man replied by asking Mallory if he
happened to be a flea-bitten maverick, and embellished his question
with a copious flow of the words ministers use, but with a secular
arrangement of them. In fact he split one word in two to insert a
double-barrelled curse. All that Mallory could do was to admit that he
was a flea-bitten what-he-said, and back away.

After that, if a vicar in full uniform had marched down the aisle
heading a procession of choir-boys, Mallory would have suspected him.
He vowed in his haste that Marjorie might die an old maid before he
would approach anybody else on that subject.

Nebraska would have been a nice long state for a honeymoon, but its
four hundred-odd miles were a dreary length for the couple so near and
yet so far. The railroad clinging to the meandering Platte made the
way far longer, and Mallory and Marjorie felt like Pyramus and Thisbe
wandering along an eternal wall, through which they could see, but not
reach, one another.

They dined together as dolefully as if they had been married for forty
years. Then the slow twilight soaked them in its melancholy. The
porter lighted up the car, and the angels lighted up the stars, but
nothing lighted up their hopes.

"We've got to quarrel again, my beloved," Mallory groaned to Marjorie.

Somehow they were too dreary even to nag one another with an outburst
for the benefit of the eager-eyed passengers.

A little excitement bestirred them as they realized that they were
confronted with another night-robeless night and a morrow without
change of gear.

"What a pity that we left our things in the taxicab," Marjorie sighed.
And this time she said, "we left them," instead of "you left them." It
was very gracious of her, but Mallory did not acknowledge the
courtesy. Instead he gave a start and a gasp:

"Good Lord, Marjorie, we never paid the second taxicab!"

"Great heavens, how shall we ever pay him? He's been waiting there
twenty-four hours. How much do you suppose we owe him?"

"About a year of my pay, I guess."

"You must send him a telegram of apology and ask him to read his
meter. He was such a nice man--the kindest eyes--for a chauffeur."

"But how can I telegraph him? I don't know his name, or his number,
or his company, or anything."

"It's too bad. He'll go through life hating us and thinking we cheated
him."

"Well, he doesn't know our names either."

And then they forgot him temporarily for the more immediate need of
clothes. All the passengers knew that they had left behind what
baggage they had not sent ahead, and much sympathy had been expressed.
But most people would rather give you their sympathy than lend you
their clothes. Mallory did not mind the men, but Marjorie dreaded the
women. She was afraid of all of them but Mrs. Temple.

She threw herself on the little lady's mercy and was asked to help
herself. She borrowed a nightgown of extraordinary simplicity, a shirt
waist of an ancient mode, and a number of other things.

If there had been anyone there to see she would have made a most
anachronistic bride.

Mallory canvassed the men and obtained a shockingly purple shirt from
Wedgewood, who meant to put him at his ease, but somehow failed when
he said in answer to Mallory's thanks:

"God bless my soul, old top, don't you think of thanking me. I ought
to thank you. You see, the idiot who makes my shirts, made that by
mistake, and I'd be no end grateful if you'd jolly well take the
loathsome thing off my hands. I mean to say, I shouldn't dream of
being seen in it myself. You quite understand, don't you?"

Ashton contributed a maroon atrocity in hosiery, with equal tact:

"If they fit you, keep 'em. I got stung on that batch of socks. That
pair was originally lavender, but they washed like that. Keep 'em. I
wouldn't be found dead in 'em."

The mysterious Fosdick, who lived a lonely life in the Observation car
and slept in the other sleeper, lent Mallory a pair of pyjamas
evidently intended for a bridegroom of romantic disposition. Mallory
blushed as he accepted them and when he found himself in them, he
whisked out the light, he was so ashamed of himself.

Once more the whole car gaped at the unheard of behavior of its newly
wedded pair. The poor porter had been hungry for a bridal couple, but
as he went about gathering up the cast-off footwear of his large
family and found Mallory's big shoes at number three and Marjorie's
tiny boots at number five, he shook his head and groaned.

"Times has suttainly changed for the wuss if this is a bridal couple,
gimme divorcees."



CHAPTER XXI

MATRIMONY TO AND FRO


And the next morning they were in Wyoming--well toward the center of
that State. They had left behind the tame levels and the truly rural
towns and they were among foothills and mountains, passing cities of
wildly picturesque repute, like Cheyenne, and Laramie, Bowie, and
Medicine Bow, and Bitter Creek, whose very names imply literature and
war whoops, cow-boy yelps, barking revolvers, another redskin biting
the dust, cattle stampedes, town-paintings, humorous lynchings and
bronchos in epileptic frenzy.

But the talk of this train was concerned with none of these wonders,
which the novelists and the magazinist have perhaps a trifle
overpublished. The talk of this train was concerned with the eighth
wonder of the world, a semi-detached bridal couple.

Mrs. Whitcomb was eager enough to voice the sentiment of the whole
populace, when she looked up from her novel in the observation room
and, nudging Mrs. Temple, drawled: "By the way, my dear, has that
bridal couple made up its second night's quarrel yet?"

"The Mallorys?" Mrs. Temple flushed as she answered, mercifully. "Oh,
yes, they were very friendly again this morning."

Mrs. Whitcomb's countenance was cynical: "My dear, I've been married
twice and I ought to know something about honeymoons, but this
honeyless honeymoon----" she cast up her eyes and her hands in
despair.

The women were so concerned about Mr. and "Mrs." Mallory, that they
hardly noticed the uncomfortable plight of the Wellingtons, or the
curious behavior of the lady from the stateroom who seemed to be
afraid of something and never spoke to anybody. The strange behavior
of Anne Gattle and Ira Lathrop even escaped much comment, though they
were forever being stumbled on when anybody went out to the
observation platform. When they were dislodged from there, they sat
playing checkers and talking very little, but making eyes at one
another and sighing like furnaces.

They had evidently concocted some secret of their own, for Ira,
looking at his watch, murmured sentimentally to Anne: "Only a few
hours more, Annie."

And Anne turned geranium-color and dropped a handful of checkers. "I
don't know how I can face it."

Ira growled like a lovesick lion: "Aw, what do you care?"

"But I was never married before, Ira," Anne protested, "and on a
train, too."

"Why, all the bridal couples take to the railroads."

"I should think it would be the last place they'd go," said Anne--a
sensible woman, Anne! "Look at the Mallories--how miserable they are."

"I thought they were happy," said Ira, whose great virtue it was to
pay little heed to what was none of his business.

"Oh, Ira," cried Anne, "I hope we shan't begin to quarrel as soon as
we are married."

"As if anybody could quarrel with you, Anne," he said.

"Do you think I'll be so monotonous as that?" she retorted.

Her spunk delighted him beyond words. He whispered: "Anne, you're so
gol-darned sweet if I don't get a chance to kiss you, I'll bust."

"Why, Ira--we're on the train."

"Da--darn the train! Who ever heard of a fellow proposing and getting
engaged to a girl and not even kissing her."

"But our engagement is so short."

"Well, I'm not going to marry you till I get a kiss."

Perhaps innocent old Anne really believed this blood-curdling threat.
It brought her instantly to terms, though she blushed: "But
everybody's always looking."

"Come out on the observation platform."

"Oh, Ira, again?"

"I dare you."

"I take you--but" seeing that Mrs. Whitcomb was trying to overhear,
she whispered: "let's pretend it's the scenery."

So Ira rose, pushed the checkers aside, and said in an unusually
positive tone: "Ah, Miss Gattle, won't you have a look at the
landscape?"

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Lathrop," said Anne, "I just love scenery."

They wandered forth like the Sleeping Beauty and her princely
awakener, and never dreamed what gigglings and nudgings and wise
head-noddings went on back of them. Mrs. Wellington laughed loudest of
all at the lovers whose heads had grown gray while their hearts were
still so green.

It was shortly after this that the Wellingtons themselves came into
prominence in the train life.

As the train approached Green River, and its copper-basined stream,
the engineer began to set the air-brakes for the stop. Jimmie
Wellington, boozily half-awake in the smoking room, wanted to know
what the name of the station was. Everybody is always eager to oblige
a drunken man, so Ashton and Fosdick tried to get a window open to
look out.

The first one they labored at, they could not budge after a
biceps-breaking tug. The second flew up with such ease that they went
over backward. Ashton put his head out and announced that the
approaching depot was labelled "Green River." Wellington burbled:
"What a beautiful name for a shtation."

Ashton announced that there was something beautifuller still on the
platform--"Oh, a peach!--a nectarine! and she's getting on this
train."

Even Doctor Temple declared that she was a dear little thing, wasn't
she?

Wellington pushed him aside, saying: "Stand back, Doc., and let me
see; I have a keen sense of beau'ful."

"Be careful," cried the doctor, "he'll fall out of the window."

"Not out of that window," Ashton sagely observed, seeing the bulk of
Wellington. As the train started off again, Little Jimmie distributed
alcoholic smiles to the Green Riverers on the platform and called out:

"Goo'bye, ever'body. You're all abslootly--ow! ow!" He clapped his
hand to his eye and crawled back into the car, groaning with pain.

"What's the matter," said Wedgewood. "Got something in your eye?"

"No, you blamed fool. I'm trying to look through my thumb."

"Poor fellow!" sympathized Doctor Temple, "it's a cinder!"

"A cinder! It's at leasht a ton of coal."

"I say, old boy, let me have a peek," said Wedgewood, screwing in his
monocle and peering into the depths of Wellington's eye. "I can't see
a bally thing."

"Of course not, with that blinder on," growled the miserable wretch,
weeping in spite of himself and rubbing his smarting orb.

"Don't rub that eye," Ashton counselled, "rub the other eye."

"It's my eye; I'll rub it if I want to. Get me a doctor, somebody. I'm
dying."

"Here's Doctor Temple," said Ashton, "right on the job." Wellington
turned to the old clergyman with pathetic trust, and the deceiver
writhed in his disguise. The best he could think of was: "Will
somebody lend me a lead pencil?"

"What for?" said Wellington, uneasily.

"I am going to roll your upper lid up on it," said the Doctor.

"Oh, no, you're not," said the patient. "You can roll your own lids!"

Then the conductor, still another conductor, wandered on the scene and
asked as if it were not a world-important matter: "What's the
matter--pick up a cinder?"

"Yes. Perhaps you can get it out," the alleged doctor appealed.

The conductor nodded: "The best way is this--take hold of the
winkers."

"The what?" mumbled Wellington.

"Grab the winkers of your upper eyelid in your right hand----"

"I've got 'em."

"Now grab the winkers of your lower eyelid in your left hand. Now
raise the right hand, push the under lid under the overlid and haul
the overlid over the underlid; when you have the overlid well over the
under----"

Wellington waved him away: "Say, what do you think I'm trying to do?
stuff a mattress? Get out of my way. I want my wife--lead me to my
wife."

"An excellent idea," said Dr. Temple, who had been praying for a
reconciliation.

He guided Wellington with difficulty to the observation room and,
finding Mrs. Wellington at the desk as usual, he began: "Oh, Mrs.
Wellington, may I introduce you to your husband?"

Mrs. Wellington rose haughtily, caught a sight of her suffering
consort and ran to him with a cry of "Jimmie!"

"Lucretia!"

"What's happened--are you killed?"

"I'm far from well. But don't worry. My life insurance is paid up."

"Oh, my poor little darling," Mrs. Jimmie fluttered, "What on earth
ails you?" She turned to the doctor. "Is he going to die?"

"I think not," said the doctor. "It's only a bad case of
cinder-in-the-eyetis."

Thus reassured, Mrs. Wellington went into the patient's eye with her
handkerchief. "Is that the eye?" she asked.

"No!" he howled, "the other one."

She went into that and came out with the cinder.

"There! It's just a tiny speck."

Wellington regarded the mote with amazement. "Is that all? It felt as
if I had Pike's Peak in my eye." Then he waxed tender. "Oh, Lucretia,
how can I ever----"

But she drew away with a disdainful: "Give me back my hand, please."

"Now, Lucretia," he protested, "don't you think you're carrying this
pretty far?"

"Only as far as Reno," she answered grimly, which stung him to retort:
"You'd better take the beam out of your own eye, now that you've taken
the cinder out of mine," but she, noting that they were the center of
interest, observed: "All the passengers are enjoying this, my dear.
You'd better go back to the café."

Wellington regarded her with a revulsion to wrath. He thundered at
her: "I will go back, but allow me to inform you, my dear madam, that
I'll not drink another drop--just to surprise you."

Mrs. Wellington shrugged her shoulders at this ancient threat and
Jimmie stumbled back to his lair, whither the men followed him.
Feeling sympathy in the atmosphere, Little Jimmie felt impelled to
pour out his grief:

"Jellmen, I'm a brok'n-heartless man. Mrs. Well'n'ton is a queen among
women, but she has temper of tarant----"

Wedgewood broke in: "I say, old boy, you've carried this ballast for
three days now, wherever did you get it?"

Wellington drew himself up proudly for a moment before he slumped back
into himself. "Well, you see, when I announced to a few friends that I
was about to leave Mrs. Well'n'ton forever and that I was going out
to--to--you know."

"Reno. We know. Well?"

"Well, a crowd of my friends got up a farewell sort of divorce
breakfast--and some of 'em felt so very sad about my divorce that they
drank a little too much, and the rest of my friends felt so very glad
about my divorce, that they drank a little too much. And, of course, I
had to join both parties."

"And that breakfast," said Ashton, "lasted till the train started,
eh?"

Wellington glowered back triumphantly. "Lasted till the train started?
Jellmen, that breakfast is going yet!"



CHAPTER XXII

IN THE SMOKING ROOM


Wellington's divorce breakfast reminded Ashton of a story. Ashton was
one of the great That-Reminds-Me family. Perhaps it was to the credit
of the Englishman that he missed the point of this story, even though
Jimmie Wellington saw it through his fog, and Dr. Temple turned red
and buried his eyes in the eminently respectable pages of the
_Scientific American_.

Ashton and Wellington and Fosdick exchanged winks over the Britisher's
stare of incomprehension, and Ashton explained it to him again in
words of one syllable, with signboards at all the difficult spots.

Finally a gleam of understanding broke over Wedgewood's face and he
tried to justify his delay.

"Oh, yes, of cawse I see it now. Yes, I rather fancy I get you. It's
awfully good, isn't it? I think I should have got it before but I'm
not really myself; for two mawnings I haven't had my tub."

Wellington shook with laughter: "If you're like this now, what will
you be when you get to Sin san frasco--I mean Frinsansisco--well, you
know what I mean."

Ashton reached round for the electric button as if he were conferring
a favor: "The drinks are on you, Wedgewood. I'll ring." And he rang.

"Awf'lly kind of you," said Wedgewood, "but how do you make that out?"

"The man that misses the point, pays for the drinks." And he rang
again. Wellington protested.

"But I've jolly well paid for all the drinks for two days."

Wellington roared: "That's another point you've missed." And Ashton
rang again, but the pale yellow individual who had always answered the
bell with alacrity did not appear. "Where's that infernal buffet
waiter?" Ashton grumbled.

Wedgewood began to titter. "We were out of Scotch, so I sent him for
some more."

"When?"

"Two stations back. I fancy we must have left him behind."

"Well, why in thunder didn't you say so?" Ashton roared.

"It quite escaped my mind," Wedgewood grinned. "Rather good joke on
you fellows, what?"

"Well, I don't see the point," Ashton growled, but the triumphant
Englishman howled: "That's where _you_ pay!"

Wedgewood had his laugh to himself, for the others wanted to murder
him. Ashton advised a lynching, but the conductor arrived on the scene
in time to prevent violence.

Fosdick informed him of the irretrievable loss of the useful buffet
waiter. The conductor promised to get another at Ogden.

Ashton wailed: "Have we got to sit here and die of thirst till then?"

The conductor refused to "back up for a coon," but offered to send in
a sleeping-car porter as a temporary substitute.

As he started to go, Fosdick, who had been incessantly consulting his
watch, checked him to ask: "Oh, conductor, when do we get to the
State-line of dear old Utah?"

"Dear old Utah!" the conductor grinned. "We'd 'a' been there already
if we hadn't 'a' fell behind a little."

"Just my luck to be late," Fosdick moaned.

"What you so anxious to be in Utah for, Fosdick?" Ashton asked,
suspiciously. "You go on to 'Frisco, don't you?"

Fosdick was evidently confused at the direct question. He tried to
dodge it: "Yes, but--funny how things have changed. When we started,
nobody was speaking to anybody except his wife, now----"

"Now," said Ashton, drily, "everybody's speaking to everybody except
his wife."

"You're wrong there," Little Jimmie interrupted. "I wasn't speaking
to my wife in the first place. We got on as strangersh and we're
strangersh yet. Mrs. Well'n'ton is a----"

"A queen among women, we know! Dry up," said Ashton, and then they
heard the querulous voice of the porter of their sleeping car: "I tell
you, I don't know nothin' about the buffet business."

The conductor pushed him in with a gruff command: "Crawl in that cage
and get busy."

Still the porter protested: "Mista Pullman engaged me for a sleepin'
car, not a drinkin' car. I'm a berth-maker, not a mixer." He cast a
resentful glance through the window that served also as a bar, and his
whole tone changed: "Say, is you goin' to allow me loose amongst all
them beautiful bottles? Say, man, if you do, I can't guarantee my
conduck."

"If you even sniff one of those bottles," the conductor warned him,
"I'll crack it over your head."

"That won't worry me none--as long as my mouf's open." He smacked his
chops over the prospect of intimacy with that liquid treasury. "Lordy!
Well, I'll try to control my emotions--but remember, I don't guarantee
nothin'."

The conductor started to go, but paused for final instructions: "And
remember--after we get to Utah you can't serve any hard liquor at
all."

"What's that? Don't they 'low nothin' in that old Utah but ice-cream
soda?"

"That's about all. If you touch a drop, I'll leave you in Utah for
life."

"Oh, Lordy, I'll be good!"

The conductor left the excited black and went his way. Ashton was the
first to speak: "Say, Porter, can you mix drinks?"

The porter ruminated, then confessed: "Well, not on the outside, no,
sir. If you-all is thirsty you better order the simplest things you
can think of. If you was to command anything fancy, Lord knows what
you'd get. Supposin' you was to say, 'Gimme a Tom Collins.' I'd be
just as liable as not to pass you a Jack Johnson."

"Well, can you open beer?"

"Oh, I'm a natural born beer-opener."

"Rush it out then. My throat is as full of alkali dust as these
windows."

The porter soon appeared with a tray full of cotton-topped glasses.
The day was hot and the alkali dust very oppressive, and the beer was
cold. Dr. Temple looked on it when it was amber, and suffered himself
to be bullied into taking a glass.

He felt that he was the greatest sinner on earth, but worst of all was
the fact that when he had fallen, the forbidden brew was not sweet. He
was inexperienced enough to sip it and it was like foaming quinine on
his palate. But he kept at it from sheer shame, and his luxurious
transgression was its own punishment.

The doleful Mallory was on his way to join the "club". Crossing the
vestibule he had met the conductor, and had ventured to quiz him along
the old lines:

"Excuse me, haven't you taken any clergymen on board this train yet?"

"Devil a one."

"Don't you ever carry any preachers on this road?"

"Usually we get one or two. Last trip we carried a whole Methodist
convention."

"A whole convention last trip! Just my luck!"

The unenlightened conductor turned to call back: "Say, up in the
forward car we got a couple of undertakers. They be of any use to
you?"

"Not yet."

Then Mallory dawdled on into the smoking room, where he found his own
porter, who explained that he had been "promoted to the bottlery."

"Do we come to a station stop soon?" Mallory asked.

"Well, not for a considerable interval. Do you want to get out and
walk up and down?"

"I don't," said Mallory, taking from under his coat Snoozleums, whom
he had smuggled past the new conductor. "Meanwhile, Porter, could you
give him something to eat to distract him?"

The porter grinned, and picking up a bill of fare held it out. "I got
a meenuel. It ain't written in dog, but you can explain it to him.
What would yo' canine desiah, sah?"

Snoozleums put out a paw and Mallory read what it indicated: "He says
he'd like a filet Chateaubriand, but if you have any old bones, he'll
take those." The porter gathered Snoozleums in and disappeared with
him into the buffet, Mallory calling after him: "Don't let the
conductor see him."

Dr. Temple advanced on the disconsolate youth with an effort at cheer:
"How is our bridegroom this beautiful afternoon?"

Mallory glanced at his costume: "I feel like a rainbow gone wrong.
Just my luck to have to borrow from everybody. Look at me! This collar
of Mr. Wellington's makes me feel like a peanut in a rubber tire." He
turned to Fosdick.

"I say, Mr. Fosdick, what size collar do you wear?"

"Fourteen and a half," said Fosdick.

"Fourteen and a half!--why don't you get a neck? You haven't got a
plain white shirt, have you? Our English friend lent me this, but it's
purple, and Mr. Ashton's socks are maroon, and this peacock blue tie
is very unhappy."

"I think I can fit you out," said Fosdick.

"And if you had an extra pair of socks," Mallory pleaded,--"just one
pair of unemotional socks."

"I'll show you my repertoire."

"All right, I'll see you later." Then he went up to Wellington, with
much hesitance of manner. "By the way, Mr. Wellington, do you suppose
Mrs. Wellington could lend Miss--Mrs.--could lend Marjorie
some--some----"

Wellington waved him aside with magnificent scorn: "I am no longer in
Mrs. Wellington's confidence."

"Oh, excuse me," said Mallory. He had noted that the Wellingtons
occupied separate compartments, but for all he knew their reason was
as romantic as his own.



CHAPTER XXIII

THROUGH A TUNNEL


Mrs. Jimmie Wellington, who had traveled much abroad and learned in
England the habit of smoking in the corridors of expensive hotels, had
acquired also the habit, as travelers do, of calling England freer
than America. She determined to do her share toward the education of
her native country, and chose, for her topic, tobacco as a feminine
accomplishment.

She had grown indifferent to stares and audible comment and she could
fight a protesting head waiter to a standstill. If monuments and
tablets are ever erected to the first woman who smoked publicly in
this place or that, Mrs. Jimmie Wellington will be variously
remembered and occupy a large place in historical record.

The narrow confines of the women's room on the sleeping car soon
palled on her, and she objected to smoking there except when she felt
the added luxury of keeping some other woman outside--fuming, but not
smoking. And now Mrs. Jimmie had staked out a claim on the observation
platform. She sat there, puffing like a major-general, and in one
portion of Nebraska two farmers fell off their agricultural vehicles
at the sight of her cigar-smoke trailing after the train. In Wyoming
three cowboys followed her for a mile, yipping and howling their
compliments.

Feeling the smoke mood coming on, Mrs. Wellington invited Mrs. Temple
to smoke with her, but Mrs. Temple felt a reminiscent qualm at the
very thought, so Mrs. Jimmie sauntered out alone, to the great
surprise of Ira Lathrop, whose motto was, "Two heads are better than
one," and who was apparently willing to wait till Anne Gattle's head
grew on his shoulder.

"I trust I don't intrude," Mrs. Wellington said.

"Oh, no. Oh, yes." Anne gasped in fiery confusion as she fled into the
car, followed by the purple-faced Ira, who slammed the door with a
growl: "That Wellington woman would break up anything."

The prim little missionary toppled into the nearest chair: "Oh, Ira,
what will she think?"

"She can't think!" Ira grumbled. "In a little while she'll know."

"Don't you think we'd better tell everybody before they begin to
talk?"

Ira glowed with pride at the thought and murmured with all the ardor
of a senile Romeo: "I suppose so, ducky darling. I'll break it--I mean
I'll tell it to the men, and you tell the women."

"All right, dear, I'll obey you," she answered, meekly.

"Obey me!" Ira laughed with boyish swagger. "And you a missionary!"

"Well, I've converted one heathen, anyway," said Anne as she darted
down the corridor, followed by Ira, who announced his intention to "go
to the baggage car and dig up his old Prince Albert."

In their flight forward they passed the mysterious woman in the
stateroom. They were too full of their own mystery to give thought to
hers. Mrs. Fosdick went timidly prowling toward the observation car,
suspecting everybody to be a spy, as Mallory suspected everybody to be
a clergyman in disguise.

As she stole along the corridor past the men's clubroom she saw her
husband--her here-and-there husband--wearily counting the telegraph
posts and summing them up into miles. She tapped on the glass and
signalled to him, then passed on.

He answered with a look, then pretended not to have noticed, and
waited a few moments before he rose with an elaborate air of
carelessness. He beckoned the porter and said:

"Let me know the moment we enter Utah, will you?"

"Yassah. We'll be comin' along right soon now. We got to pass through
the big Aspen tunnel, after that, befo' long, we splounce into old
Utah."

"Don't forget," said Fosdick, as he sauntered out. Ashton perked up
his ears at the promise of a tunnel and kept his eye on his watch.

Fosdick entered the observation room with a hungry look in his
luscious eyes. His now-and-then wife put up a warning finger to
indicate Mrs. Whitcomb's presence at the writing desk.

Fosdick's smile froze into a smirk of formality and he tried to chill
his tone as if he were speaking to a total stranger.

"Good afternoon."

Mrs. Fosdick answered with equal ice: "Good afternoon. Won't you sit
down?"

"Thanks. Very picturesque scenery, isn't it?"

"Isn't it?" Fosdick seated himself, looked about cautiously, noted
that Mrs. Whitcomb was apparently absorbed in her letter, then lowered
his voice confidentially. His face kept up a strained pretense of
indifference, but his whisper was passionate with longing:

"Has my poor little wifey missed her poor old hubby?"

"Oh, so much!" she whispered. "Has poor little hubby missed his poor
old wife?"

"Horribly. Was she lonesome in that dismal stateroom all by herself?"

"Oh, so miserable! I can't stand it much longer."

Fosdick's face blazed with good news: "In just a little while we come
to the Utah line--then we're safe."

"God bless Utah!"

The rapture died from her face as she caught sight of Dr. Temple, who
happened to stroll in and go to the bookshelves, and taking out a book
happened to glance near-sightedly her way.

"Be careful of that man, dearie," Mrs. Fosdick hissed out of one side
of her mouth. "He's a very strange character."

Her husband was infected with her own terror. He asked, huskily: "What
do you think he is?"

"A detective! I'm sure he's watching us. He followed you right in
here."

"We'll be very cautious--till we get to Utah."

The old clergyman, a little fuzzy in brain from his début in beer,
continued innocently to confirm the appearance of a detective by
drifting aimlessly about. He was looking for his wife, but he kept
glancing at the uneasy Fosdicks. He went to the door, opened it, saw
Mrs. Wellington finishing a cigar, and retreated precipitately. Seeing
Mrs. Temple wandering in the corridor, he motioned her to a chair near
the Fosdicks and she sat by his side, wondering at his filmy eyes.

The Fosdicks, glancing uncomfortably at Dr. Temple, rose and selected
other chairs further away. Then Roger Ashton sauntered in, his eyes
searching for a proper companion through the tunnel.

He saw Mrs. Wellington returning from the platform, just tossing away
her cigar and blowing out the last of its grateful vapor.

With an effort at sarcasm, he went to her and offered her one of his
own cigars, smiling: "Have another."

She took it, looked it over, and parried his irony with a formula she
had heard men use when they hate to refuse a gift-cigar: "Thanks. I'll
smoke it after dinner, if you don't mind."

"Oh, I don't mind," he laughed, then bending closer he murmured: "They
tell me we are coming to a tunnel, a nice, long, dark, dismal tunnel."

Mrs. Wellington would not take a dare. She felt herself already
emancipated from Jimmie. So she answered Ashton's hint with a laughing
challenge:

"How nice of the conductor to arrange it."

Ashton smacked his lips over the prospect.

And now the porter, having noted Ashton's impatience to reach the
tunnel, thought to curry favor and a quarter by announcing its
approach. He bustled in and made straight for Ashton just as the
tunnel announced itself with a sudden swoop of gloom, a great increase
of the train-noises and a far-off clang of the locomotive bell.

Out of the Egyptian darkness came the unmistakable sounds of
osculation in various parts of the room. Doubtless, it was repeated in
other parts of the train. There were numerous cooing sounds, too, but
nobody spoke except Mrs. Temple, who was heard to murmur:

"Oh, Walter, dear, what makes your breath so funny!"

Next came a little yowl of pain in Mrs. Fosdick's voice, and then
daylight flooded the car with a rush, as if time had made an instant
leap from midnight to noon. There were interesting disclosures.

Mrs. Temple was caught with her arms round the doctor's neck, and she
blushed like a spoony girl. Mrs. Fosdick was trying to disengage her
hair from Mr. Fosdick's scarf-pin. Mrs. Whitcomb alone was deserted.
Mr. Ashton was gazing devotion at Mrs. Wellington and trying to tell
her with his eyes how velvet he had found her cheek.

But she was looking reproachfully at him from a chair, and saying, not
without regret:

"I heard everybody kissing everybody, but I was cruelly neglected."

Ashton's eyes widened with unbelief, he heard a snicker at his elbow,
and whirled to find the porter rubbing his black velvet cheek and
writhing with pent-up laughter.

Mrs. Wellington glanced the same way, and a shriek of understanding
burst from her. It sent the porter into a spasm of yah-yahs till he
caught Ashton's eyes and saw murder in them. The porter fled to the
platform and held the door fast, expecting to be lynched.

But Ashton dashed away in search of concealment and soap.

The porter remained on the platform for some time, planning to leap
overboard and take his chances rather than fall into Ashton's hands,
but at length, finding himself unpursued, he peered into the car and,
seeing that Ashton had gone, he returned to his duties. He kept a
close watch on Ashton, but on soberer thoughts Ashton had decided that
the incident would best be consigned to silence and oblivion. But for
all the rest of that day he kept rubbing his lips with his
handkerchief.

The porter, noting that the train had swept into a granite gorge like
an enormously magnified aisle in a made-up sleeping car, recognized
the presence of Echo Canyon, and with it the entrance into Utah. He
hastened to impart the tidings to Mr. Fosdick and held out his hand as
he extended the information.

Fosdick could hardly believe that his twelve-hundred-mile exile was
over.

"We're in Utah?" he exclaimed.

"Yassah," and the porter shoved his palm into view. Fosdick filled it
with all his loose change, then whirled to his wife and cried:

"Edith! We are in Utah now! Embrace me!"

She flung herself into his arms with a gurgle of bliss. The other
passengers gasped with amazement. This sort of thing was permissible
enough in a tunnel, but in the full light of day----!

Fosdick, noting the sensation he had created, waved his hand
reassuringly and called across his wife's shoulder:

"Don't be alarmed, ladies and gentlemen. She's my wife!" He added in a
whisper meant for her ear alone: "At least till we get to Nevada!"

Then she whispered something in his ear and they hurried from the car.
They left behind them a bewilderment that eclipsed the wonder of the
Mallories. That couple spoke to each other at least during the day
time. Here was a married pair that did not speak at all for two days
and two nights and then made a sudden and public rush to each other's
arms!

Dr. Temple summed up the general feeling when he said:

"I don't believe in witches, but if I did, I'd believe that this train
is bewitched."

Later he decided that Fosdick was a Mormon elder and that Mrs. Fosdick
was probably a twelfth or thirteenth spouse he was smuggling in from
the East. The theory was not entirely false, for Fosdick was one of
the many victims of the crazy-quilt of American divorce codes, though
he was the most unwilling of polygamists. And Dr. Temple gave up his
theory in despair the next morning when he found the Fosdicks still on
the train, and once more keeping aloof from each other.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE TRAIN BUTCHER


Mallory was dragging out a miserable existence with a companion who
was neither maid, wife, nor widow and to whom he was neither bachelor,
husband, nor relict.

They were suffering brain-fag from their one topic of conversation,
and heart-fag from rapture deferred. Marjorie had pretended to take a
nap and Mallory had pretended that he would leave her for her own
sake. Their contradictory chains were beginning to gall.

Mallory sat in the smoking room, and threw aside a half-finished
cigar. Life was indeed nauseous when tobacco turned rank on his lips.
He watched without interest the stupendous scenery whirling past the
train; granite ravines, infernal grotesques of architecture and
diablerie, the Giant's Teapot, the Devil's Slide, the Pulpit Rock, the
Hanging Rock, splashes of mineral color, as if titanic paint pots had
been spilled or flung against the cliffs, sudden hushes of green
pine-worlds, dreary graveyards of sand and sagebrush, mountain streams
in frothing panics.

His jaded soul could not respond to any of these thrillers, the
dime-novels and melodramatic third-acts of Nature. But with the
arrival of a train-boy, who had got on at Evanston with a batch of
Salt Lake City newspapers, he woke a little.

The other men came trooping round, like sheep at a herd-boy's whistle
or chickens when a pan of grain is brought into the yard. The train
"butcher" had a nasal sing-song, but his strain might have been the
Pied Piper's tune emptying Hamelin of its grown-ups. The charms of
flirtation, matrimonial bliss and feminine beauty were forgotten, and
the males flocked to the delights of stock-market reports, political
or racing or dramatic or sporting or criminal news. Even Ashton braved
the eyes of his fellow men for the luxury of burying his nose in a
fresh paper.

"Papers, gents? Yes? No?" the train butcher chanted. "Salt Lake
papers, Ogden papers, all the latest papers, comic papers, magazines,
periodicals."

"Here, boy," said Ashton, snapping his fingers, "what's the latest New
York paper?"

"Last Sat'day's."

"Six days old? I read that before I left New York. Well, give me that
Salt Lake paper. It has yesterday's stock market, I suppose."

"Yes, sir." He passed over the sheet and made change, without abating
his monody: "Papers, gents. Yes? No? Salt Lake pa----"

"Whash latesh from Chicago?" said Wellington.

"Monday's."

"I read that before--that breakfast began," laughed Little Jimmie.
"Well, give me _Salt Lake Bazoo_. It has basheball news, I s'pose."

"Yes, sir," the butcher answered, and his tone grew reverent as he
said: "The Giants won. Mr. Mattyson was pitching. Papers, gents, all
the latest papers, magazines, periodicals."

Wedgewood extended a languid hand: "What's the latest issue of the
_London Times_?"

"Never heard of it."

Wedgewood almost fainted, and returned to his Baedeker of the United
States.

Dr. Temple summoned the lad: "I don't suppose you have the _Ypsilanti
Eagle_?"

The butcher regarded him with pity, and sniffed: "I carry newspapers,
not poultry."

"Well, give me the----" he saw a pink weekly of rather picturesque
appearance, and the adventure attracted him. "I'll take this--also the
_Outlook_." He folded the pink within the green, and entered into a
new and startling world--a sort of journalistic slumming tour.

"Give me any old thing," said Mallory, and flung open an Ogden journal
till he found the sporting page, where his eyes brightened. "By jove,
a ten-inning game! Matthewson in the box!"

"Mattie is most intelleckshal pitcher in the world," said Little
Jimmie, and then everybody disappeared behind paper ramparts, while
the butcher lingered to explain to the porter the details of the great
event.

About this time, Marjorie, tired of her pretence at slumber, strolled
into the observation car, glancing into the men's room, where she saw
nothing but newspapers. Then Mrs. Wellington saw her, and smiled:
"Come in and make yourself at home."

"Thanks," said Marjorie, bashfully, "I was looking for my--my----"

"Husband?"

"My dog."

"How is he this morning?"

"My dog?"

"Your husband."

"Oh, he's as well as could be expected."

"Where did you get that love of a waist?" Mrs. Wellington laughed.

"Mrs. Temple lent it to me. Isn't it sweet?"

"Exquisite! The latest Ypsilanti mode."

Marjorie, suffering almost more acutely from being badly frocked than
from being duped in her matrimonial hopes, threw herself on Mrs.
Wellington's mercy.

"I'm so unhappy in this. Couldn't you lend me or sell me something a
little smarter?"

"I'd love to, my dear," said Mrs. Wellington, "but I left home on
short notice myself. I shall need all my divorce trousseau in Reno.
Otherwise--I--but here's your husband. You two ought to have some
place to spoon. I'll leave you this whole room."

And she swept out, nodding to Mallory, who had divined Marjorie's
presence, and felt the need of being near her, though he also felt the
need of finishing the story of the great ball game. Husband-like, he
felt that he was conferring sufficient courtesy in throwing a casual
smile across the top of the paper.

Marjorie studied his motley garb, and her own, and groaned:

"We're a sweet looking pair, aren't we?"

"Mr. and Miss Fit," said Mallory, from behind the paper.

"Oh, Harry, has your love grown cold?" she pleaded.

"Marjorie, how can you think such a thing?" still from behind the
paper.

"Well, Mrs. Wellington said we ought to have some place to spoon, and
she went away and left us, and--there you stand--and----"

This pierced even the baseball news, and he threw his arms around her
with glow of devotion.

She snuggled closer, and cooed: "Aren't we having a nice long
engagement? We've traveled a million miles, and the preacher isn't in
sight yet. What have you been reading--wedding announcements?"

"No--I was reading about the most wonderful exhibition. Mattie was in
the box--and in perfect form."

"Mattie?" Marjorie gasped uneasily.

"Mattie!" he raved, "and in perfect form."

And now the hidden serpent of jealousy, which promised to enliven
their future, lifted its head for the first time, and Mallory caught
his first glimpse of an unsuspected member of their household.
Marjorie demanded with an ominous chill:

"And who's Mattie? Some former sweetheart of yours?"

"My dear," laughed Mallory.

But Marjorie was up and away, with apt temper: "So Mattie was in the
box, was she? What is it to you, where she sits? You dare to read
about her and rave over her perfect form, while you neglect your
wife--or your--oh, what am I, anyway?"

Mallory stared at her in amazement. He was beginning to learn what
ignorant heathen women are concerning so many of the gods and
demi-gods of mankind. Then, with a tenderness he might not always
show, he threw the paper down and took her in his arms: "You poor
child. Mattie is a man--a pitcher--and you're the only woman I ever
loved--and you are liable to be my wife any minute."

The explanation was sufficient, and she crawled into the shelter of
his arm with little noises that served for apology, forgiveness and
reconciliation. Then he made the mistake of mentioning the sickening
topic of deferred hope:

"A minister's sure to get on at the next stop--or the next."

Marjorie's nerves were frayed by too much enduring, and it took only a
word to set them jangling: "If you say minister to me again, I'll
scream." Then she tried to control herself with a polite: "Where is
the next stop?"

"Ogden."

"Where's that? On the map?"

"Well, it's in Utah."

"Utah!" she groaned. "They marry by wholesale there, and we can't even
get a sample."



CHAPTER XXV

THE TRAIN WRECKER


The train-butcher, entering the Observation Room, found only a loving
couple. He took in at a glance their desire for solitude. A large part
of his business was the forcing of wares on people who did not want
them.

His voice and his method suggested the mosquito. Seeing Mallory and
Marjorie mutually absorbed in reading each other's eyes, and evidently
in need of nothing on earth less than something else to read, the
train-butcher decided that his best plan of attack was to make himself
a nuisance. It is a plan successfully adopted by organ-grinders,
street pianists and other blackmailers under the guise of art, who
have nothing so welcome to sell as their absence.

Mallory and Marjorie heard the train-boy's hum, but they tried to
ignore it.

"Papers, gents and ladies? Yes? No? Paris fashions, lady?"

He shoved a large periodical between their very noses, but Marjorie
threw it on the floor, with a bitter glance at her own borrowed
plumage:

"Don't show me any Paris fashions!" Then she gave the boy his congé by
resuming her chat with Mallory: "How long do we stop at Ogden?"

The train-boy went right on auctioning his papers and magazines, and
poking them into the laps of his prey. And they went right on talking
to one another and pushing his papers and magazines to the floor.

"I think I'd better get off at Ogden, and take the next train back.
That's just what I'll do. Nothing, thank you!" this last to the
train-boy.

"But you can't leave me like this," Mallory urged excitedly, with a
side glance of "No, no!" to the train-boy.

"I can, and I must, and I will," Marjorie insisted. "I'll go pack my
things now."

"But, Marjorie, listen to me."

"Will you let me alone!" This to the gadfly, but to Mallory a dejected
wail: "I--I just remembered. I haven't anything to pack."

"And you'll have to give back that waist to Mrs. Temple. You can't get
off at Ogden without a waist."

"I'll go anyway. I want to get home."

"Marjorie, if you talk that way--I'll throw you off the train!"

She gasped. He explained: "I wasn't talking to you; I was trying to
stop this phonograph." Then he rose, and laid violent hands on the
annoyer, shoved him to the corridor, seized his bundle of papers from
his arm, and hurled them at his head. They fell in a shower about the
train-butcher, who could only feel a certain respect for the one man
who had ever treated him as he knew he deserved. He bent to pick up
his scattered merchandise, and when he had gathered his stock
together, put his head in, and sang out a sincere:

"Excuse me."

But Mallory did not hear him, he was excitedly trying to calm the
excited girl, who, having eloped with him, was preparing now to elope
back without him.

"Darling, you can't desert me now," he pleaded, "and leave me to go on
alone?"

"Well, why don't you do something?" she retorted, in equal
desperation. "If I were a man, and I had the girl I loved on a train,
I'd get her married if I had to wreck the----" she caught her breath,
paused a second in intense thought, and then, with sudden radiance,
cried: "Harry, dear!"

"Yes, love!"

"I have an idea--an inspiration!"

"Yes, pet," rather dubiously from him, but with absolute exultation
from her: "Let's wreck the train!"

"I don't follow you, sweetheart."

"Don't you see?" she began excitedly. "When there are train wrecks a
lot of people get killed, and things. A minister always turns up to
administer the last something or other--well----"

"Well?"

"Well, stupid, don't you see? We wreck a train, a minister comes, we
nab him, he marries us, and--there we are! Everything's lovely!"

He gave her one of those looks with which a man usually greets what a
woman calls an inspiration. He did not honor her invention with
analysis. He simply put forward an objection to it, and, man-like,
chose the most hateful of all objections:

"It's a lovely idea, but the wreck would delay us for hours and hours,
and I'd miss my transport----"

"Harry Mallory, if you mention that odious transport to me again, I
know I'll have hydrophobia. I'm going home."

"But, darling," he pleaded, "you can't desert me now, and leave me to
go on alone?" She had her answer glib:

"If you really loved me, you'd----"

"Oh, I know," he cut in. "You've said that before. But I'd be
court-martialled. I'd lose my career."

"What's a career to a man who truly loves?"

"It's just as much as it is to anybody else--and more."

She could hardly controvert this gracefully, so she sank back with
grim resignation. "Well, I've proposed my plan, and you don't like
it. Now, suppose you propose something."

The silence was oppressive. They sat like stoughton bottles. There the
conductor found them some time later. He gave them a careless look,
selected a chair at the end of the car, and began to sort his tickets,
spreading them out on another chair, making notes with the pencil he
took from atop his ear, and shoved back from time to time.

Ages seemed to pass, and Mallory had not even a suggestion. By this
time Marjorie's temper had evaporated, and when he said: "If we could
only stop at some town for half an hour," she said: "Maybe the
conductor would hold the train for us."

"I hardly think he would."

"He looks like an awfully nice man. You ask him."

"Oh, what's the use?"

Marjorie was getting tired of depending on this charming young man
with the very bad luck. She decided to assume command herself. She
took recourse naturally to the original feminine methods: "I'll take
care of him," she said, with resolution. "A woman can get a man to do
almost anything if she flirts a little with him."

"Marjorie!"

"Now, don't you mind anything I do. Remember, it's all for love of
you--even if I have to kiss him."

"Marjorie, I won't permit----"

"You have no right to boss me--yet. You subside." She gave him the
merest touch, but he fell backward into a chair, utterly aghast at the
shameless siren into which desperation had altered the timid little
thing he thought he had chosen to love. He was being rapidly initiated
into the complex and versatile and fearfully wonderful thing a woman
really is, and he was saying to himself, "What have I married?"
forgetting, for the moment, that he had not married her yet, and that
therein lay the whole trouble.



CHAPTER XXVI

DELILAH AND THE CONDUCTOR


Like the best of women and the worst of men, Marjorie was perfectly
willing to do evil, that good might come of it. She advanced on the
innocent conductor, as the lady from Sorek must have sidled up to
Samson, coquetting with one arch hand and snipping the shears with the
other.

The stupefied Mallory saw Marjorie in a startling imitation of herself
at her sweetest; only now it was brazen mimicry, yet how like! She
went forward as the shyest young thing in the world, pursed her lips
into an ecstatic simper, and began on the unsuspecting official:

"Isn't the country perfectly----"

"Yes, but I'm getting used to it," the conductor growled, without
looking up.

His curt indifference jolted Marjorie a trifle, but she rallied her
forces, and came back with: "How long do we stop at Ogden?"

"Five minutes," very bluntly.

Marjorie poured maple syrup on her tone, as she purred: "This train of
yours is an awfully fast train, isn't it?"

"Sort of," said the conductor, with just a trace of thaw. What
followed made him hold his breath, for the outrageous little hussy was
actually saying: "The company must have a great deal of confidence in
you to entrust the lives and welfare of so many people to your
presence of mind and courage."

"Well, of course, I can't say as to that----" Even Mallory could see
that the man's reserve was melting fast as Marjorie went on with
relentless treacle:

"Talk about soldiers and firemen and life-savers! I think it takes a
braver man than any of those to be a conductor--really."

"Well, it is a kind of a responsible job." The conductor swelled his
chest a little at that, and Marjorie felt that he was already hers.
She hammered the weak spot in his armor:

"Responsible! I should say it is. Mr. Mallory is a soldier, but
soldiers are such ferocious, destructive people, while conductors save
lives, and--if I were only a man I think it would be my greatest
ambition to be a conductor--especially on an overland express."

The conductor told the truth, when he confessed: "Well, I never heard
it put just that way." Then he spoke with a little more pride, hoping
to increase the impression he felt he was making: "The main thing, of
course, is to get my train through On Time!"

This was a facer. He was going to get his train through On Time just
to oblige Marjorie. She stammered:

"I don't suppose the train, by any accident, would be delayed in
leaving Ogden?"

"Not if I can help it," the hero averred, to reassure her.

"I wish it would," Marjorie murmured.

The conductor looked at her in surprise: "Why, what's it to you?" She
turned her eyes on him at full candle power, and smiled:

"Oh, I just wanted to do a little shopping there."

"Shopping! While the train waits! Excuse me!"

"You see," Marjorie fluttered, "by a sad mistake, my baggage isn't on
the train. And I haven't any--any--I really need to buy some--some
things very badly. It's awfully embarrassing to be without them."

"I can imagine," the conductor mumbled. "Why don't you and your
husband drop off and take the next train?"

"My husb--Mr. Mallory has to be in San Francisco by to-morrow night.
He just has to!"

"So have I."

"But to oblige me? To save me from distress--don't you think you
could?" Like a sweet little child she twisted one of the brass buttons
on his coat sleeve, and wheedled: "Don't you think you might hold the
train just a little tiny half hour?"

He was sorry, but he didn't see how he could. Then she took his
breath away again by asking, out of a clear sky: "Are you married?"

He was as awkward as if she had proposed to him, she answered for him:
"Oh, but of course you are. The women wouldn't let a big, handsome,
noble brave giant like you escape long." He mopped his brow in agony
as she went on: "I'm sure you're a very chivalrous man. I'm sure you
would give your life to rescue a maiden in distress. Well, here's your
chance. Won't you please hold the train?"

She actually had her cheek almost against his shoulder, though she had
to poise atiptoe to reach him. Mallory's dismay was changing to a
boiling rage, and the conductor was a pitiable combination of Saint
Anthony and Tantalus. "I--I'd love to oblige you," he mumbled, "but it
would be as much as my job's worth."

"How much is that?" Marjorie asked, and added reassuringly, "If you
lost your job I'm sure my father would get you a better one."

"Maybe," said the conductor, "but--I got this one."

Then his rolling eyes caught sight of the supposed husband
gesticulating wildly and evidently clearing for action. He warned
Marjorie: "Say, your husband is motioning at you."

"Don't mind him," Marjorie urged, "just listen to me. I implore you.
I----" Seeing that he was still resisting, she played her last card,
and, crying, "Oh, you can't resist my prayers so cruelly," she threw
her arms around his neck, sobbing, "Do you want to break my heart?"

Mallory rushed into the scene and the conductor, tearing Marjorie's
arms loose, retreated, gasping, "No! and I don't want your husband to
break my head."

Mallory dragged Marjorie away, but she shook her little fist at the
conductor, crying: "Do you refuse? Do you dare refuse?"

"I've got to," the conductor abjectly insisted.

Marjorie blazed with fury and the siren became a Scylla. "Then I'll
see that my father gets you discharged. If you dare to speak to me
again, I'll order my husband to throw you off this train. To think of
being refused a simple little favor by a mere conductor! of a stupid
old emigrant train!! of all things!!!"

Then she hurled herself into a chair and pounded her heels on the
floor in a tantrum that paralyzed Mallory. Even the conductor tapped
him on the shoulder and said: "You have my sympathy."



CHAPTER XXVII

THE DOG-ON DOG AGAIN


As the conductor left the Mallorys to their own devices, it rushed
over him anew what sacrilege had been attempted--a fool bride had
asked him to stop the Trans-American of all trains!--to go shopping of
all things!

He stormed into the smoking room to open the safety valve of his
wrath, and found the porter just coming out of the buffet cell with a
tray, two hollow-stemmed glasses and a bottle swaddled in a napkin.

"Say, Ellsworth, what in ---- do you suppose that female back there
wants?--wants me to hold the Trans-American while----"

But the porter was in a flurry himself. He was about to serve
champagne, and he cut the conductor short:

"'Scuse me, boss, but they's a lovin' couple in the stateroom forward
that is in a powerful hurry for this. I can't talk to you now. I'll
see you later." And he swaggered off, leaving the door of the buffet
open. The conductor paused to close it, glanced in, started, stared,
glared, roared: "What's this! Well, I'll be--a dog smuggled in here!
I'll break that coon's head. Come out of there, you miserable or'nary
hound." He seized the incredulous Snoozleums by the scruff of his
neck, growling, "It's you for the baggage car ahead," and dashed out
with his prey, just as Mallory, now getting new bearings on Marjorie's
character, spoke across the rampart of his Napoleonically folded arms:

"Well, you're a nice one!--making violent love to a conductor before
my very eyes. A minute more and I would have----"

She silenced him with a snap: "Don't you speak to me! I hate you! I
hate all men. The more I know men the more I like----" this reminded
her, and she asked anxiously: "Where is Snoozleums?"

Mallory, impatient at the shift of subject, snapped back: "Oh, I left
him in the buffet with the waiter. What I want to know is how you dare
to----"

"Was it a colored waiter?"

"Of course. But I'm not speaking of----"

"But suppose he should bite him?"

"Oh, you can't hurt those nigger waiters. I started to say----"

"But I can't have Snoozleums biting colored people. It might not agree
with him. Get him at once."

Mallory trembled with suppressed rage like an overloaded boiler, but
he gave up and growled: "Oh, Lord, all right. I'll get him when I've
finished----"

"Go get him this minute. And bring the poor darling back to his
mother."

"His mother! Ye gods!" cried Mallory, wildly. He turned away and
dashed into the men's room with a furious: "Where's that damned dog?"

He met the porter just returning. The porter smiled: "He's right in
heah, sir," and opened the buffet door. His eyes popped and his jaw
sagged: "Why, I lef' him here just a minute ago."

"You left the window open, too," Mallory observed. "Well, I guess he's
gone."

The porter was panic stricken: "Oh, I'm turrible sorry, boss, I
wouldn't have lost dat dog for a fortune. If you was to hit me with a
axe I wouldn't mind."

To his utter befuddlement, Mallory grinned and winked at him, and
murmured: "Oh, that's all right. Don't worry." And actually laid half
a dollar in his palm. Leaving the black lids batting over the starting
eyes, Mallory pulled his smile into a long face and went back to
Marjorie like an undertaker: "My love, prepare yourself for bad news."

Marjorie looked up, startled and apprehensive: "Snoozleums is ill. He
did bite the darkey."

"Worse than that--he--he--fell out of the window."

"When!" she shrieked, "in heaven's name--when?"

"He was there just a minute ago, the waiter says."

Marjorie went into instant hysterics, wringing her hands and sobbing:
"Oh, my darling, my poor child--stop the train at once!"

She began to pound Mallory's shoulders and shake him frantically. He
had never seen her this way either. He was getting his education in
advance. He tried to calm her with inexpert words: "How can I stop the
train? Now, dearie, he was a nice dog, but after all, he was only a
dog."

She rounded on him like a panther: "Only a dog! He was worth a dozen
men like you. You find the conductor at once, command him to stop this
train--and back up! I don't care if he has to go back ten miles. Run,
tell him at once. Now, you run!"

Mallory stared at her as if she had gone mad, but he set out to run
somewhere, anywhere. Marjorie paced up and down distractedly, tearing
her hair and moaning, "Snoozleums, Snoozleums! My child. My poor
child!" At length her wildly roving eyes noted the bell rope. She
stared, pondered, nodded her head, clutched at it, could not reach it,
jumped for it several times in vain, then seized a chair, swung it
into place, stood up in it, gripped the rope, and came down on it with
all her weight, dropping to the floor and jumping up and down in a
frenzied dance. In the distance the engine could be heard faintly
whistling, whistling for every pull.

The engineer, far ahead, could not imagine what unheard-of crisis
could bring about such mad signals. The fireman yelled:

"I bet that crazy conductor is attacked with an epilettic fit."

But there was no disputing the command. The engine was reversed, the
air brakes set, the sand run out and every effort made to pull the
iron horse, as it were, back on its haunches.

The grinding, squealing, jolting, shook the train like an earthquake.
The shrieking of the whistle froze the blood like a woman's cry of
"Murder!" in the night. The women among the passengers echoed the
screams. The men turned pale and braced themselves for the shock of
collision. Some of them were mumbling prayers. Dr. Temple and Jimmie
Wellington, with one idea in their dissimilar souls, dashed from the
smoking room to go to their wives.

Ashton and Wedgewood, with no one to care for but themselves, seized
windows and tried to fight them open. At last they budged a sash and
knelt down to thrust their heads out.

"I don't see a beastly thing ahead," said Wedgewood, "except the heads
of other fools."

"We're slowing down though," said Ashton, "she stops! We're safe.
Thank God!" And he collapsed into a chair. Wedgewood collapsed into
another, gasping: "Whatevah are we safe from, I wondah?"

The train-crew and various passengers descended and ran alongside the
train asking questions. Panic gave way to mystery. Even Dr. Temple
came back into the smoking room to finish a precious cigar he had been
at work on. He was followed by Little Jimmie, who had not quite
reached his wife when the stopping of the train put an end to his
excuse for chivalry. He was regretfully mumbling:

"It would have been such a good shansh to shave my life's wife--I mean
my--I don't know what I mean." He sank into a chair and ordered a
drink; then suddenly remembered his vow, and with great heroism,
rescinded the order.

Mallory, finding that the train was checked just before he reached the
conductor, saw that official's bewildered wrath at the stoppage and
had a fearsome intuition that Marjorie had somehow done the deed. He
hurried back to the observation room, where he found her charging up
and down, still distraught. He paused at a safe distance and said:

"The train has stopped, my dear. Somebody rang the bell."

"I guess somebody did!" Marjorie answered, with a proud toss of the
head. "Where's the conductor?"

"He's looking for the fellow that pulled the rope."

"You go tell him to back up--and slowly, too."

"No, thank you!" said Mallory. He was a brave young man, but he was
not bearding the conductors of stopped expresses. Already the
conductor's voice was heard in the smoking room, where he appeared
with the rush and roar of a Bashan bull. "Well!" he bellowed, "which
one of you guys pulled that rope?"

"It was nobody here, sir," Dr. Temple meekly explained. The conductor
transfixed him with a baleful glare: "I wouldn't believe a gambler on
oath. I bet you did it."

"I assure you, sir," Wedgewood interposed, "he didn't touch it. I was
heah."

The conductor waved him aside and charged into the observation room,
followed by all the passengers in an awe struck rabble. Here, too, the
conductor thundered: "Who pulled that rope? Speak up somebody."

Mallory was about to sacrifice himself to save Marjorie, but she met
the conductor's black rage with the withering contempt of a young
queen: "I pulled the old rope. Whom did you suppose?"

The conductor almost dropped with apoplexy at finding himself with
nobody to vent his immense rage on, but this pink and white slip.
"You!" he gulped, "well, what in----Say, in the name of--why, don't
you know it's a penitentiary offense to stop a train this way?"

Marjorie tossed her head a little higher, grew a little calmer: "What
do I care? I want you to back up."

The conductor was reduced to a wet rag, a feeble echo: "Back up--the
train up?"

"Yes, back the train up," Marjorie answered, resolutely, "and go
slowly till I tell you to stop."

The conductor stared at her a moment, then whirled on Mallory: "Say,
what in hell's the matter with your wife?"

Mallory was saved from the problem of answering by Marjorie's abrupt
change from a young Tsarina rebuking a serf, to a terrified mother.
She flung out imploring palms and with a gush of tears pleaded: "Won't
you please back up? My darling child fell off the train."

The conductor's rage fell away in an instant. "Your child fell off the
train!" he gasped. "Good Lord! How old was he?"

With one hand he was groping for the bell cord to give the signal,
with the other he opened the door to look back along the track.

"He was two years old," Marjorie sobbed.

"Oh, that's too bad!" the conductor groaned. "What did he look like?"

"He had a pink ribbon round his neck."

"A pink ribbon--oh, the poor little fellow! the poor little fellow!"

"And a long curly tail."

The conductor swung round with a yell: "A curly tail!--your son?"

"My dog!" Marjorie roared back at him.

The conductor's voice cracked weakly as he shrieked: "Your dog! You
stopped this train for a fool dog?"

"He wasn't a fool dog," Marjorie retorted, facing him down, "he knows
more than you do."

The conductor threw up his hands: "Well, don't you women beat----" He
studied Marjorie as if she were some curious freak of nature. Suddenly
an idea struck into his daze: "Say, what kind of a dog was it?--a
measly little cheese-hound?"

"He was a noble, beautiful soul with wonderful eyes and adorable
ears."

The conductor was growing weaker and weaker: "Well, don't worry. I got
him. He's in the baggage car."

Marjorie stared at him unbelievingly. The news seemed too gloriously
beautiful to be true. "He isn't dead--Snoozleums is not dead!" she
cried, "he lives! He lives! You have saved him." And once more she
flung herself upon the conductor. He tried to bat her off like a gnat,
and Mallory came to his rescue by dragging her away and shoving her
into a chair. But she saw only the noble conductor: "Oh, you dear,
good, kind angel. Get him at once."

"He stays in the baggage car," the conductor answered, firmly and as
he supposed, finally.

"But Snoozleums doesn't like baggage cars," Marjorie smiled. "He won't
ride in one."

"He'll ride in this one or I'll wring his neck."

"You fiend in human flesh!" Marjorie shrank away from him in horror,
and he found courage to seize the bell rope and yank it viciously with
a sardonic: "Please, may I start this train?"

The whistle tooted faintly. The bell began to hammer, the train to
creak and writhe and click. The conductor pulled his cap down hard and
started forward. Marjorie seized his sleeve: "Oh, I implore you, don't
consign that poor sweet child to the horrid baggage car. If you have a
human heart in your breast, hear my prayer."

The conductor surrendered unconditionally: "Oh, Lord, all right, all
right. I'll lose my job, but if you'll keep quiet, I'll bring him to
you." And he slunk out meekly, followed by the passengers, who were
shaking their heads in wonderment at this most amazing feat of this
most amazing bride.

When they were alone once more, Marjorie as radiant as April after a
storm, turned her sunshiny smile on Mallory:

"Isn't it glorious to have our little Snoozleums alive and well?"

But Mallory was feeling like a March day. He answered with a sleety
chill: "You care more for the dog than you do for me."

"Why shouldn't I?" Marjorie answered with wide eyes, "Snoozleums never
would have brought me on a wild goose elopement like this. Heaven
knows he didn't want to come."

Mallory repeated the indictment: "You love a dog better than you love
your husband."

"My what?" Marjorie laughed, then she spoke with lofty condescension:
"Harry Mallory, if you're going to be jealous of that dog, I'll never
marry you the longest day I live."

"So you'll let a dog come between us?" he demanded.

"I wouldn't give up Snoozleums for a hundred husbands," she retorted.

"I'm glad to know it in time," Mallory said. "You'd better give me
back that wedding ring."

Marjorie's heart stopped at this, but her pride was in arms. She drew
herself up, slid the ring from her finger, and held it out as if she
scorned it: "With pleasure. Good afternoon, Mr. Mallory."

Mallory took it as if it were the merest trifle, bowed and murmured:
"Good afternoon, Miss Newton."

He stalked out and she turned her back on him. A casual witness would
have said that they were too indifferent to each other even to feel
anger. As a matter of romantic fact, each was on fire with love, and
aching madly with regret. Each longed for strength to whirl round with
outflung arms of reconciliation, and neither could be so brave. And so
they parted, each harking back fiercely for one word of recall from
the other. But neither spoke, and Marjorie sat staring at nothing
through raining eyes, while Mallory strode into the Men's Room as
melancholy as Hamlet with Yorick's skull in his hands.

It was their first great quarrel, and they were convinced that the
world might as well come to an end.



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE WOMAN-HATER'S RELAPSE


The observation room was as lonely as a deserted battle-field and
Marjorie as doleful as a wounded soldier left behind, and perishing of
thirst, when the conductor came back with Snoozleums in his arms.

He regarded with contemptuous awe the petty cause of so great an event
as the stopping of the Trans-American. He expected to see Marjorie
receive the returned prodigal with wild rapture, but she didn't even
smile when he said:

"Here's your powder-puff."

She just took Snoozleums on her lap, and, looking up with wet eyes and
a sad smile, murmured:

"Thank you very much. You're the nicest conductor I ever met. If you
ever want another position, I'll see that my father gets you one."

It was like offering the Kaiser a new job, but the conductor swallowed
the insult and sought to repay it with irony.

"Thanks. And if you ever want to run this road for a couple of weeks,
just let me know."

Marjorie nodded appreciatively and said: "I will. You're very kind."

And that completed the rout of that conductor. He retired in disorder,
leaving Marjorie to fondle Snoozleums with a neglectful indifference
that would have greatly flattered Mallory, if he could have seen
through the partition that divided them.

But he was witnessing with the cynical superiority of an aged and
disillusioned man the, to him, childish behavior of Ira Lathrop, an
eleventh-hour Orlando.

For just as Mallory moped into the smoking-room at one door, Ira
Lathrop swept in at the other, his face rubicund with embarrassment
and ecstasy. He had donned an old frock coat with creases like ruts
from long exile in his trunk. But he was feeling like an heir
apparent; and he startled everybody by his jovial hail:

"Well, boys--er--gentlemen--the drinks are on me. Waiter, take the
orders."

Little Jimmie woke with a start, rose hastily to his feet and saluted,
saying: "Present! Who said take the orders?"

"I did," said Lathrop, "I'm giving a party. Waiter, take the orders."

"Sarsaparilla," said Dr. Temple, but they howled him down and ordered
other things. The porter shook his head sadly: "Nothin' but sof'
drinks in Utah, gemmen."

A groan went up from the club-members, and Lathrop groaned loudest of
all:

"Well, we've got to drink something. Take the orders. We'll all have
sarsaparilla."

Little Jimmie Wellington came to the rescue.

"Don't do anything desperate, gentlemen," he said, with a look of
divine philanthropy. "The bar's closed, but Little Jimmie Wellington
is here with the life preserver." From his hip-pocket he produced a
silver flask that looked to be big enough to carry a regiment through
the Alps. It was greeted with a salvo, and Lathrop said to Jimmie: "I
apologize for everything I have said--and thought--about you." He
turned to the porter: "There ain't any law against giving this away,
is there?"

The porter grinned: "Not if you-all bribe the exercise-inspector." And
he held out a glass for the bribe, murmuring, "Don't git tired," as it
was poured. He set it inside his sanctum and then bustled round with
ice-filled glasses and a siphon.

When Little Jimmie offered of the flask to Dr. Temple, the clergyman
put out his hand with a politely horrified: "No, thank you."

Lathrop frightened him with a sudden comment: "Look at that gesture!
Doc, I'd almost swear you were a parson."

Mallory whirled on him with the eyes of a hawk about to pounce, and
"The very idea!" was the best disclaimer Dr. Temple could manage,
suddenly finding himself suspected. Ashton put in with, "The only way
to disprove it, Doc, is to join us."

The poor old clergyman, too deeply involved in his deception to brave
confession now, decided to do and dare all. He stammered,
"Er--ah--certainly," and held out his hand for his share of the
poison. Little Jimmie winked at the others and almost filled the
glass. The innocent doctor bowed his thanks. When the porter reached
him and prepared to fill the remainder of the glass from the siphon,
the parson waved him aside with a misguided caution:

"No, thanks. I'll not mix them."

Mallory turned away with a sigh: "He takes his straight. He's no
parson."

Then they forgot the doctor in curiosity as to Lathrop's sudden spasm
of generosity--with Wellington's liquor. Wedgewood voiced the general
curiosity when he said:

"What's the old woman-hater up to now?"

"Woman-hater?" laughed Ira. "It's the old story. I'm going to follow
Mallory's example--marriage."

"I hope you succeed," said Mallory.

"Wherever did you pick up the bride?" said Wedgewood, mellowing with
the long glass in his hand.

"Brides are easy," said Mallory, with surprising cynicism. "Where do
you get the parson?"

"Hang the parson," Wedgewood repeated, "Who's the gel?"

"I'll bet I know who she is," Ashton interposed; "it's that nectarine
of a damsel who got on at Green River."

"Not the same!" Lathrop roared. "I found my bride blooming here all
the while. Girl I used to spark back in Brattleboro, Vermont. I've
been vowing for years that I'd live and die an old maid. I've kept my
head out of the noose all this time--till I struck this train and met
up with Anne. We got to talking over old times--waking up old
sentiments. She got on my nerves. I got on hers. Finally I said, 'Aw,
hell, let's get married. Save price of one stateroom to China anyway.'
She says, 'Damned if I don't!'--or words to that effect."

Mallory broke in with feverish interest: "But you said you were going
to get married on this train."

"Nothing easier. Here's How!" and he raised his glass, but Mallory
hauled it down to demand: "How? that's what I want to know. How are
you going to get married on this parsonless express. Have you got a
little minister in your suitcase?"

Ira beamed with added pride as he explained:

"Well, you see, when I used to court Anne I had a rival--Charlie Selby
his name was. I thought he cut me out, but he became a clergyman in
Utah--Oh, Charlie! I telegraphed him that I was passing through
Ogden, and would he come down to the train and marry me to a charming
lady. He always wanted to marry Anne. I thought it would be a durned
good joke to let him marry her--to me."

"D-did he accept?" Mallory asked, excitedly, "is he coming?"

"He is--he did--here's his telegram," said Ira. "He brings the license
and the ring." He passed it over, and as Mallory read it a look of
hope spread across his face. But Ira was saying: "We're going to have
the wedding obsequies right here in this car. You're all invited. Will
you come?"

There was a general yell of acceptance and Ashton began to sing,
"There was I waiting at the church." Then he led a sort of Indian
war-dance round the next victim of the matrimonial stake. At the end
of the hullaballoo all the men charged their glasses, and drained them
with an uproarious "How!"

Poor Doctor Temple had taken luxurious delight in the success of his
disguise and in the prospect of watching some other clergyman working
while he rested. He joined the dance as gaily, if not as gracefully,
as any of the rest, and in a final triumph of recklessness, he tossed
off a bumper of straight whisky.

Instantly his "How!" changed to "Wow!" and then his throat clamped
fast with a terrific spasm that flung the tears from his eyes. He bent
and writhed in a silent paroxysm till he was pounded and shaken back
to life and water poured down his throat to reopen a passage.

The others thought he had merely choked and made no comment other than
sympathy. They could not have dreamed that the old "physician" was as
ignorant of the taste as of the vigor of pure spirits.

After a riot of handshaking and good wishes, Ira was permitted to
escape with his life. Mallory followed him to the vestibule, where he
caught him by the sleeve with an anxious:

"Excuse me."

"Well, my boy----"

"Your minister--after you get through with him--may I use him?"

"May you--what? Why do you want a minister?"

"To get married."

"Again? Good Lord, are you a Mormon?"

"Me a Mormon!"

"Then what do you want with an extra wife? It's against the law--even
in Utah."

"You don't understand."

"My boy, one of us is disgracefully drunk."

"Well, I'm not," said Mallory, and then after a fierce inner debate,
he decided to take Lathrop into his confidence. The words came hard
after so long a duplicity, but at last they were out:

"Mr. Lathrop, I'm not really married to my wife."

"You young scoundrel!"

But his fury changed to pity when he heard the history of Mallory's
ill-fated efforts, and he promised not only to lend Mallory his
minister at secondhand, but also to keep the whole affair a secret,
for Mallory explained his intention of having his own ceremony in the
baggage-car, or somewhere out of sight of the other passengers.

Mallory's face was now aglow as the cold embers of hope leaped into
sudden blaze. He wrung Lathrop's hand, saying: "Lord love you, you've
saved my life--wife--both."

Then he turned and ran to Marjorie with the good news. He had quite
forgotten their epoch-making separation. And she was so glad to see
him smiling at her again that she forgot it, too. He came tearing into
the observation room and took her by the shoulders, whispering: "Oh,
Marjorie, Marjorie, I've got him! I've got him!"

"No, I've got him," she said, swinging Snoozleums into view.

Mallory swung him back out of the way: "I don't mean a poodle, I mean
a parson. I've got a parson."

"No! I can't believe it! Where is he?" She began to dance with
delight, but she stopped when he explained:

"Well, I haven't got him yet, but I'm going to get one."

"What--again?" she groaned, weary of this old bunco game of hope.

"It's a real live one this time," Mallory insisted. "Mr. Lathrop has
ordered a minister and he's going to lend him to me as soon as he's
through with him, and we'll be married on this train."

Marjorie was overwhelmed, but she felt it becoming in her to be a
trifle coy. So she pouted: "But you won't want me for a bride now. I'm
such a fright."

He took the bait, hook and all: "I never saw you looking so adorable."

"Honestly? Oh, but it will be glorious to be Mrs. First Lieutenant
Mallory."

"Glorious!"

"I must telegraph home--and sign my new name. Won't mamma be pleased?"

"Won't she?" said Mallory, with just a trace of dubiety.

Then Marjorie grew serious with a new idea: "I wonder if mamma and
papa have missed me yet?"

Mallory laughed: "After three days' disappearance, I shouldn't be
surprised."

"Perhaps they are worrying about me."

"I shouldn't be surprised."

"The poor dears! I'd better write them a telegram at once."

"An excellent idea."

She ran to the desk, found blank forms and then paused with knitted
brow: "It will be very hard to say all I've got to say in ten words."

"Hang the expense," Mallory sniffed magnificently, "I'm paying your
bills now."

But Marjorie tried to look very matronly: "Send a night letter in the
day time! No, indeed, we must begin to economize."

Mallory was touched by this new revelation of her future housewifely
thrift. He hugged her hard and reminded her that she could send a
day-letter by wire.

"An excellent idea," she said. "Now, don't bother me. You go on and
read your paper, read about Mattie. I'll never be jealous of
her--him--of anybody--again."

"You shall never have cause for jealousy, my own."

But fate was not finished with the initiation of the unfortunate pair,
and already new trouble was strolling in their direction.



CHAPTER XXIX

JEALOUSY COMES ABOARD


There was an air of domestic peace in the observation room, where
Mallory and Marjorie had been left to themselves for some time. But
the peace was like the ominous hush that precedes a tempest.

Mallory was so happy with everything coming his way, that he was even
making up with Snoozleums, stroking the tatted coat with one hand and
holding up his newspaper with the other. He did not know all that was
coming his way. The blissful silence was broken first by Marjorie:

"How do you spell Utah?--with a y?"

"Utah begins with You," he said--and rather liked his wit, listened
for some recognition, and rose to get it, but she waved him away.

"Don't bother me, honey. Can't you see I'm busy?"

He kissed her hair and sauntered back, dividing his attention between
Snoozleums and the ten-inning game.

And now there was a small commotion in the smoking room. Through the
glass along the corridor the men caught sight of the girl who had got
on at Green River. Ashton saw her first and she saw him.

"There she goes," Ashton hissed to the others, "look quick! There's
the nectarine."

"My word! She's a little bit of all right, isn't she?"

Even Dr. Temple stared at her with approval: "Dear little thing, isn't
she?"

The girl, very consciously unconscious of the admiration, moved
demurely along, with eyes downcast, but at such an angle that she
could take in the sensation she was creating; she went along picking
up stares as if they were bouquets.

Her demeanor was a remarkable compromise between outrageous flirtation
and perfect respectability. But she was looking back so intently that
when she moved into the observation room she walked right into the
newspaper Mallory was holding out before him.

Both said: "I beg your pardon."

When Mallory lowered the paper, both stared till their eyes almost
popped. Her amazement was one of immediate rapture. He looked as if he
would have been much obliged for a volcanic crater to sink into.

"Harry!" she gasped, and let fall her handbag.

"Kitty!" he gasped, and let fall his newspaper. Both bent, he handed
her the newspaper and tossed the handbag into a chair; saw his
mistake, withdrew the newspaper and proffered her Snoozleums. Marjorie
stopped writing, pen poised in air, as if she had suddenly been
petrified.

The newcomer was the first to speak. She fairly gushed: "Harry
Mallory--of all people."

"Kitty! Kathleen! Miss Llewellyn!"

"Just to think of meeting you again."

"Just to think of it."

"And on this train of all places."

"On this train of all places!"

"Oh, Harry, Harry!"

"Oh, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!"

"You dear fellow, it's so long since I saw you last."

"So long."

"It was at that last hop at West Point, remember?--why, it seems only
yesterday, and how well you are looking. You are well, aren't you?"

"Not very." He was mopping his brow in anguish, and yet the room
seemed strangely cold.

"Of course you look much better in your uniform. You aren't wearing
your uniform, are you?"

"No, this is not my uniform."

"You haven't left the army, have you?"

"I don't know yet."

"Don't ever do that. You are just beautiful in brass buttons."

"Thanks."

"Harry!"

"What's the matter now?"

"This tie, this green tie, isn't this the one I knitted you?"

"I am sure I don't know, I borrowed it from the conductor."

"Don't you remember? I did knit you one."

"Did you? I believe you did! I think I wore it out."

"Oh, you fickle boy. But see what I have. What's this?"

He stared through the glassy eyes of complete helplessness. "It looks
like a bracelet."

"Don't tell me you don't remember this!--the little bangle bracelet
you gave me."

"D-did I give you a baygled branglet?"

"Of course you did. And the inscription. Don't you remember it?"

She held her wrist in front of his aching eyes and he perused as if it
were his own epitaph, what she read aloud for him. "_From Harry to
Kitty, the Only Girl I Ever Loved._"

"Good night!" he sighed to himself, and began to mop his brow with
Snoozleums.

"You put it on my arm," said Kathleen, with a moonlight sigh, "and
I've always worn it."

"Always?"

"Always! no matter whom I was engaged to."

The desperate wretch, who had not dared even to glance in Marjorie's
direction, somehow thought he saw a straw of self-defense. "You were
engaged to three or four others when I was at West Point."

"I may have been engaged to the others," said Kathleen, moon-eyeing
him, "but I always liked you best, Clifford--er, Tommy--I mean Harry."

"You got me at last."

Kathleen fenced back at this: "Well, I've no doubt you have had a
dozen affairs since."

"Oh, no! My heart has only known one real love." He threw this over
her head at Marjorie, but Kathleen seized it, to his greater
confusion: "Oh, Harry, how sweet of you to say it. It makes me feel
positively faint," and she swooned his way, but he shoved a chair
forward and let her collapse into that. Thinking and hoping that she
was unconscious, he made ready to escape, but she caught him by the
coat, and moaned: "Where am I?" and he growled back:

"In the Observation Car!"

Kathleen's life and enthusiasm returned without delay: "Fancy meeting
you again! I could just scream."

"So could I."

"You must come up in our car and see mamma."

"Is Ma-mamma with you?" Mallory stammered, on the verge of imbecility.

"Oh, yes, indeed, we're going around the world."

"Don't let me detain you."

"Papa is going round the world also."

"Is papa on this train, too?"

At last something seemed to embarrass her a trifle: "No, papa went on
ahead. Mamma hopes to overtake him. But papa is a very good traveler."

Then she changed the subject. "Do come and meet mamma. It would cheer
her up so. She is so fond of you. Only this morning she was saying,
'Of all the boys you were ever engaged to, Kathleen, the one I like
most of all was Edgar--I mean Clarence--er--Harry Mallory."

"Awfully kind of her."

"You must come and see her--she's some stouter now!"

"Oh, is she? Well, that's good."

Mallory was too angry to be sane, and too helpless to take advantage
of his anger. He wondered how he could ever have cared for this
molasses and mucilage girl. He remembered now that she had always had
these same cloying ways. She had always pawed him and, like everybody
but the pawers, he hated pawing.

It would have been bad enough at any time to have Kathleen hanging on
his coat, straightening his tie, leaning close, smiling up in his
eyes, losing him his balance, recapturing him every time he edged
away. But with Marjorie as the grim witness it was maddening.

He loathed and abominated Kathleen Llewellyn, and if she had only been
a man, he could cheerfully have beaten her to a pulp and chucked her
out of the window. But because she was a helpless little baggage, he
had to be as polite as he could while she sat and tore his plans to
pieces, embittered Marjorie's heart against him, and either ended all
hopes of their marriage, or furnished an everlasting rancor to be
recalled in every quarrel to their dying day. Oh, etiquette, what
injustices are endured in thy name!

So there he sat, sweating his soul's blood, and able only to spar for
time and wonder when the gong would ring. And now she was off on a new
tack:

"And where are you bound for, Harry, dear?"

"The Philippines," he said, and for the first time there was something
beautiful in their remoteness.

"Perhaps we shall cross the Pacific on the same boat."

The first sincere smile he had experienced came to him: "I go on an
army transport, fortu--unfortunately."

"Oh, I just love soldiers. Couldn't mamma and I go on the transport?
Mamma is very fond of soldiers, too."

"I'm afraid it couldn't be arranged."

"Too bad, but perhaps we can stop off and pay you a visit. I just
love army posts. So does mamma."

"Oh, do!"

"What will be your address?"

"Just the Philippines--just the Philippines."

"But aren't there quite a few of them?"

"Only about two thousand."

"Which one will you be on?"

"I'll be on the third from the left," said Mallory, who neither knew
nor cared what he was saying. Marjorie had endured all that she could
stand. She rose in a tightly leashed fury.

"I'm afraid I'm in the way."

Kathleen turned in surprise. She had not noticed that anyone was near.
Mallory went out of his head completely. "Oh, don't go--for heaven's
sake don't go," he appealed to Marjorie.

"A friend of yours?" said Kathleen, bristling.

"No, not a friend," in a chaotic tangle,
"Mrs.--Miss--Miss--Er--er--er----"

Kathleen smiled: "Delighted to meet you, Miss Ererer."

"The pleasure is all mine," Marjorie said, with an acid smile.

"Have you known Harry long?" said Kathleen, jealously, "or are you
just acquaintances on the train?"

"We're just acquaintances on the train!"

"I used to know Harry very well--very well indeed."

"So I should judge. You won't mind if I leave you to talk over old
times together?"

"How very sweet of you."

"Oh, don't mention it."

"But, Marjorie," Mallory cried, as she turned away. Kathleen started
at the ardor of his tone, and gasped: "Marjorie! Then he--you----"

"Not at all--not in the least," said Marjorie.

At this crisis the room was suddenly inundated with people. Mrs.
Whitcomb, Mrs. Wellington, Mrs. Temple and Mrs. Fosdick, all trying to
look like bridesmaids, danced in, shouting:

"Here they come! Make way for the bride and groom!"



CHAPTER XXX

A WEDDING ON WHEELS


The commotion of the matrimony-mad women brought the men trooping in
from the smoking room and there was much circumstance of decorating
the scene with white satin ribbons, a trifle crumpled and dim of
luster. Mrs. Whitcomb waved them at Mallory with a laugh:

"Recognize these?"

He nodded dismally. His own funeral baked meats were coldly furnishing
forth a wedding breakfast for Ira Lathrop. Mrs. Wellington was moving
about distributing kazoos and Mrs. Temple had an armload of old shoes,
some of which had thumped Mallory on an occasion which seemed so
ancient as to be almost prehistoric.

Fosdick was howling to the porter to get some rice, quick!

"How many portions does you approximate?"

"All you've got."

"Boiled or fried?"

"Any old way." The porter ran forward to the dining-car for the
ammunition.

Mrs. Temple whispered to her husband: "Too bad you're not officiating,
Walter." But he cautioned silence:

"Hush! I'm on my vacation."

The train was already coming into Ogden. Noises were multiplying and
from the increase of passing objects, the speed seemed to be taking on
a spurt. The bell was clamoring like a wedding chime in a steeple.

Mrs. Wellington was on a chair fastening a ribbon round one of the
lamps, and Mrs. Whitcomb was on another chair braiding the bell rope
with withered orange branches, when Ashton, with kazoo all ready,
called out:

"What tune shall we play?"

"I prefer the Mendelssohn Wedding March," said Mrs. Whitcomb, but Mrs.
Wellington glared across at her.

"I've always used the Lohengrin."

"We'll play 'em both," said Dr. Temple, to make peace.

Mrs. Fosdick murmured to her spouse: "The old Justice of the Peace
didn't give us any music at all," and received in reward one of his
most luscious-eyed looks, and a whisper: "But he gave us each other."

"Now and then," she pouted.

"But where are the bride and groom?"

"Here they come--all ready," cried Ashton, and he beat time while
some of the guests kazooed at Mendelssohn's and some Wagner's bridal
melodies, and others just made a noise.

Ira Lathrop and Anne Gattle, looking very sheepish, crowded through
the narrow corridor and stood shamefacedly blushing like two school
children about to sing a duet.

The train jolted to a dead stop. The conductor called into the car:
"Ogden! All out for Ogden!" and everybody stood watching and waiting.

Ira, seeing Mallory, edged close and whispered: "Stand by to catch the
minister on the rebound."

But Mallory turned away. What use had he now for ministers? His plans
were shattered ruins.

The porter came flying in with two large bowls of rice, and shouting,
"Here comes the 'possum--er posson." Seeing Marjorie, he said: "Shall
I perambulate Mista Snoozleums?"

She handed the porter her only friend and he hurried out, as a lean
and professionally sad ascetic hurried in. He did not recognize his
boyish enemy in the gray-haired, red-faced giant that greeted him, but
he knew that voice and its gloating irony:

"Hello, Charlie."

He had always found that when Ira grinned and was cordial, some
trouble was in store for him. He wondered what rock Ira held behind
his back now, but he forced an uneasy cordiality: "And is this you,
Ira? Well, well! It is yeahs since last we met. And you're just
getting married. Is this the first time, Ira?"

"First offense, Charlie."

The levity shocked Selby, but a greater shock was in store, for when
he inquired: "And who is the--er--happy--bride?" the triumphant
Lathrop snickered: "I believe you used to know her. Anne Gattle."

This was the rock behind Ira's back, and Selby took it with a wince:
"Not--my old----"

"The same. Anne, you remember, Charlie."

"Oh, yes," said Anne, "How do you do, Charlie?" And she put out a shy
hand, which he took with one still shyer. He was so unsettled that he
stammered: "Well, well, I had always hoped to marry you, Anne, but not
just this way."

Lathrop cut him short with a sharp: "Better get busy--before the train
starts. And I'll pay you in advance before you set off the fireworks."

The flippancy pained the Rev. Charles, but he was resuscitated by one
glance at the bill that Ira thrust into his palm. If a man's gratitude
for his wife is measured by the size of the fee he hands the enabling
parson, Ira was madly in love with Anne. The Rev. Charles had a
reminiscent suspicion that it was probably a counterfeit, but for once
he did Ira an injustice.

The minister was in such a flutter from losing his boyhood love, and
gaining so much money all at once and from performing the marriage on
a train, that he made numerous errors in the ceremony, but nobody
noticed them, and the spirit, if not the letter of the occasion, was
there and the contract was doubtless legal enough.

The ritual began with the pleasant murmur of the preacher's voice, and
the passengers crowded round in a solemn calm, which was suddenly
violated by a loud yelp of laughter from Wedgewood, who emitted guffaw
after guffaw and bent double and opened out again, like an agitated
umbrella.

The wedding-guests turned on him visages of horror, and hissed silence
at him. Ashton seized him, shook him, and muttered:

"What the--what's the matter with you?"

The Englishman shook like a boy having a spasm of giggles at a
funeral, and blurted out the explanation:

"That story about the bridegroom--I just saw the point!"

Ashton closed his jaw by brute force and watched over him through the
rest of the festivity.



CHAPTER XXXI

FOILED YET AGAIN


Mallory had fled from the scene at the first hum of the minister's
words. His fate was like alkali on his palate. For twelve hundred
miles he had ransacked the world for a minister. When one dropped on
the train like manna through the roof, even this miracle had to be
checkmated by a perverse miracle that sent to the train an early
infatuation, a silly affair that he himself called puppy-love. And now
Marjorie would never marry him. He did not blame her. He blamed fate.

He was in solitude in the smoking room. The place reeked with drifting
tobacco smoke and the malodor of cigar stubs and cigarette ends. His
plans were as useless and odious as cigarette ends. He dropped into a
chair his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands--Napoleon on
St. Helena.

And then, suddenly he heard Marjorie's voice. He turned and saw her
hesitating in the doorway. He rose to welcome her, but the smile died
on his lips at her chilly speech:

"May I have a word with you, sir?"

"Of course. The air's rather thick in here," he apologized.

"Just wait!" she said, ominously, and stalked in like a young Zenobia.
He put out an appealing hand: "Now, Marjorie, listen to reason. Of
course I know you won't marry me now."

"Oh, you know that, do you?" she said, with a squared jaw.

"But, really, you ought to marry me--not merely because I love
you--and you're the only girl I ever----" He stopped short and she
almost smiled as she taunted him: "Go on--I dare you to say it."

He swallowed hard and waived the point: "Well, anyway, you ought to
marry me--for your own sake."

Then she took his breath away by answering: "Oh, I'm going to marry
you, never fear."

"You are," he cried, with a rush of returning hope. "Oh, I knew you
loved me."

She pushed his encircling arms aside: "I don't love you, and that's
why I'm going to marry you."

"But I don't understand."

"Of course not," she sneered, as if she were a thousand years old,
"you're only a man--and a very young man."

"You've ceased to love me," he protested, "just because of a little
affair I had before I met you?"

Marjorie answered with world-old wisdom: "A woman can forgive a man
anything except what he did before he met her."

He stared at her with masculine dismay at feminine logic: "If you
can't forgive me, then why do you marry me?"

"For revenge!" she cried. "You brought me on this train all this
distance to introduce me to a girl you used to spoon with. And I don't
like her. She's awful!"

"Yes, she is awful," Mallory assented. "I don't know how I ever----"

"Oh, you admit it!"

"No."

"Well, I'm going to marry you--now--this minute--with that preacher,
then I'm going to get off at Reno and divorce you."

"Divorce me! Good Lord! On what grounds?"

"On the grounds of Miss Kitty--Katty--Llewellington--or whatever her
name is."

Mallory was groggy with punishment, and the vain effort to foresee her
next blow. "But you can't name a woman that way," he pleaded, "for
just being nice to me before I ever met you."

"That's the worst kind of unfaithfulness," she reiterated. "You should
have known that some day you would meet me. You should have saved your
first love for me."

"But last love is best," Mallory interposed, weakly.

"Oh, no, it isn't, and if it is, how do I know I'm to be your last
love? No, sir, when I've divorced you, you can go back to your first
love and go round the world with her till you get dizzy."

"But I don't want her for a wife," Mallory urged, "I want you."

"You'll get me--but not for long. And one other thing, I want you to
get that bracelet away from that creature. Do you promise?"

"How can I get it away?"

"Take it away! Do you promise?"

Mallory surrendered completely. Anything to get Marjorie safely into
his arms: "I promise anything, if you'll really marry me."

"Oh, I'll marry you, sir, but not really."

And while he stared in helpless awe at the cynic and termagant that
jealousy had metamorphosed this timid, clinging creature into, they
heard the conductor's voice at the rear door of the car: "Hurry
up--we've got to start."

They heard Lathrop's protest: "Hold on there, conductor," and Selby's
plea: "Oh, I say, my good man, wait a moment, can't you?"

The conductor answered with the gruffness of a despot: "Not a minute.
I've my orders to make up lost time. All aboard!"

While the minister was tying the last loose ends of the matrimonial
knot, Mallory and Marjorie were struggling through the crowd to get at
him. Just as they were near, they were swept aside by the rush of the
bride and groom, for the parson's "I pronounce you man and wife,"
pronounced as he backed toward the door, was the signal for another
wedding riot.

Once more Ira and Anne were showered with rice. This time it was their
own. Ira darted out into the corridor, haling his brand-new wife by
the wrist, and the wedding guests pursued them across the vestibule,
through the next car, and on, and on.

Nobody remained to notice what happened to the parson. Having
performed his function, he was without further interest or use. But to
Mallory and Marjorie he was vitally necessary.

Mallory caught his hand as it turned the knob of the door and drew him
back. Marjorie, equally determined, caught his other elbow:

"Please don't go," Mallory urged, "until you've married us."

The Reverend Charles stared at his captors in amazement:

"But my dear man, the train's moving."

Marjorie clung all the tighter and invited him to "Come on to the next
stop."

"But my dear lady," Selby gasped, "it's impossible."

"You've just got to," Mallory insisted.

"Release me, please."

"Never!"

"How dare you!" the parson shrieked, and with a sudden wriggle writhed
out of his coat, leaving it in Marjorie's hands. He darted to the door
and flung it open, with Mallory hot after him.

The train was kicking up a cloud of dust and getting its stride. The
kidnapped clergyman paused a moment, aghast at the speed with which
the ground was being paid out. Then he climbed the brass rail and,
with a hasty prayer, dropped overboard.

Mallory lunged at him, and seized him by his reversed collar. But the
collar alone remained in his clutch. The parson was almost lost in the
dust he created as he struck, bounded and rolled till he came to a
stop, with his stars and his prayers to thank for injuries to nothing
worse than his dignity and other small clothes.

Mallory returned to the observation room and flung the collar and bib
to the floor in a fury of despair, howling:

"He got away! He got away!"



CHAPTER XXXII

THE EMPTY BERTH


The one thing Mallory was beginning to learn about Marjorie was that
she would never take the point of view he expected, and never proceed
along the lines of his logic.

She had grown furious at him for what he could not help. She had told
him that she would marry him out of spite. She had commanded him to
pursue and apprehend the flying parson. He failed and returned
crestfallen and wondering what new form her rage would take.

And, lo and behold, when she saw him so downcast and helpless, she
rushed to him with caresses, cuddled his broad shoulders against her
breast, and smothered him. It was the sincerity of his dejection and
the complete helplessness he displayed that won her woman's heart.

Mallory gazed at her with almost more wonderment than delight. This
was another flashlight on her character. Most courtships are conducted
under a rose-light in which wooer and wooed wear their best clothes or
their best behavior; or in a starlit, moonlit, or gaslit twilight
where romance softens angles and wraps everything in velvet shadow.
Then the two get married and begin to live together in the cold, gray
daylight of realism, with undignified necessities and harrowing
situations at every step, and disillusion begins its deadly work.

This young couple was undergoing all the inconveniences and
temper-exposures of marriage without its blessed compensations. They
promised to be well acquainted before they were wed. If they still
wanted each other after this ordeal, they were pretty well assured
that their marriage would not be a failure.

Mallory rejoiced to see that the hurricane of Marjorie's jealousy had
only whipped up the surface of her soul. The great depths were still
calm and unmoved, and her love for him was in and of the depths.

Soon after leaving Ogden, the train entered upon the great bridge
across the Great Salt Lake. The other passengers were staring at the
enormous engineering masterpiece and the conductor was pointing out
that, in order to save forty miles and the crossing of two mountain
chains, the railroad had devoted four years of labor and millions of
dollars to stretching a thirty-mile bridge across this inland ocean.

But Marjorie and Mallory never noticed it. They were absorbed in
exploring each other's souls, and they had safely bridged the Great
Salt Lake which the first big bitter jealousy spreads across every
matrimonial route.

They were undisturbed in their voyage, for all the other passengers
had their noses flattened against the window panes of the other
cars--all except one couple, gazing each at each through time-wrinkled
eyelids touched with the magic of a tardy honeymoon.

For all that Anne and Ira knew, the Great Salt Lake was a moon-swept
lagoon, and the arid mountains of Nevada which the train went scaling,
were the very hillsides of Arcadia.

But the other passengers soon came trooping back into the observation
room. Ira had told them nothing of Mallory's confession. In the first
place, he was a man who had learned to keep a secret, and in the
second place, he had forgotten that such persons as Mallory or his
Marjorie existed. All the world was summed up in the fearsomely happy
little spinster who had moved up into his section--the section which
had begun its career draped in satin ribbons unwittingly prophetic.

The communion of Mallory and Marjorie under the benison of
reconciliation was invaded by the jokes of the other passengers,
unconsciously ironic.

Dr. Temple chaffed them amiably: "You two will have to take a back
seat now. We've got a new bridal couple to amuse us."

And Mrs. Temple welcomed them with: "You're only old married folks,
like us."

The Mallorys were used to the misunderstanding. But the misplaced
witticisms gave them reassurance that their secret was safe yet a
little while. At their dinner-table, however, and in the long evening
that followed they were haunted by the fact that this was their last
night on the train, and no minister to be expected.

And now once more the Mallorys regained the star rôles in the esteem
of the audience, for once more they quarreled at good-night-kissing
time. Once more they required two sections, while Anne Gattle's berth
was not even made up. It remained empty, like a deserted nest, for its
occupant had flown South.



CHAPTER XXXIII

FRESH TROUBLE DAILY


The following morning the daylight creeping into section number one
found Ira and Anne staring at each other. Ira was tousled and Anne was
unkempt, but her blush still gave her cheek at least an Indian summer
glow.

After a violent effort to reach the space between her shoulder blades,
she was compelled to appeal to her new master to act as her new maid.

"Oh, Mr. Lathrop," she stammered--"Ira," she corrected, "won't you
please hook me up?" she pleaded.

Ira beamed with a second childhood boyishness: "I'll do my best, my
little ootsum-tootsums, it's the first time I ever tried it."

"Oh, I'm so glad," Anne sighed, "it's the first time I ever was hooked
up by a gentleman."

He gurgled with joy and, forgetting the poverty of space, tried to
reach her lips to kiss her. He almost broke her neck and bumped his
head so hard that instead of saying, as he intended, "My darling," he
said, "Oh, hell!"

"Ira!" she gasped. But he, with all the proprietorship he had assumed,
answered cheerily: "You'll have to get used to it, ducky darling. I
could never learn not to swear." He proved the fact again and again by
the remarks he addressed to certain refractory hooks. He apologized,
but she felt more like apologizing for herself.

"Oh, Ira," she said, "I'm so ashamed to have you see me like this--the
first morning."

"Well, you haven't got anything on me--I'm not shaved."

"You don't have to tell me that," she said, rubbing her smarting
cheek. Then she bumped her head and gasped: "Oh--what you said."

This made them feel so much at home that she attained the heights of
frankness and honesty by reaching in her handbag for a knob of
supplementary hair, which she affixed dextrously to what was
homegrown. Ira, instead of looking shocked, loved her for her honesty,
and grinned:

"Now, that's where you have got something on me. Say, we're like a
couple of sardines trying to make love in a tin can."

"It's cosy though," she said, and then vanished through the curtains
and shyly ran the gauntlet of amused glances and over-cordial "Good
mornings" till she hid her blushes behind the door of the women's room
and turned the key. If she had thought of it she would have said, "God
bless the man that invented doors--and the other angel that invented
locks."

The passengers this morning were all a little brisker than usual. It
was the last day aboard for everybody and they showed a certain extra
animation, like the inmates of an ocean liner when land has been
sighted.

Ashton was shaving when Ira swaggered into the men's room. Without
pausing to note whom he was addressing, Ashton sang out:

"Good morning. Did you rest well?"

"What!" Ira roared.

"Oh, excuse me!" said Ashton, hastily, devoting himself to a gash his
safety razor had made in his cheek--even in that cheek of his.

Ira scrubbed out the basin, filled it and tried to dive into it,
slapping the cold water in double handfuls over his glowing face and
puffing through it like a porpoise.

Meanwhile the heavy-eyed Fosdick was slinking through the dining-car,
regarded with amazement by Dr. Temple and his wife, who were already
up and breakfasting.

"What's the matter with the bridal couples on this train, anyway?"
said Dr. Temple.

"I can't imagine," said his wife, "we old couples are the only normal
ones."

"Some more coffee, please, mother," he said.

"But your nerves," she protested.

"It's my vacation," he insisted.

Mrs. Temple stared at him and shook her head: "I wonder what mischief
you'll be up to to-day? You've already been smoking, gambling,
drinking--have you been swearing, yet?"

"Not yet," the old clergyman smiled, "I've been saving that up for a
good occasion. Perhaps it will rise before the day's over."

And his wife choked on her tea at the wonderful train-change that had
come over the best man in Ypsilanti.

By this time Fosdick had reached the stateroom from which he had been
banished again at the Nevada state-line. He knocked cautiously. From
within came an anxious voice: "Who's there?"

"Whom did you expect?"

Mrs. Fosdick popped her head out like a Jill in the box. "Oh, it's
you, Arthur. Kiss me good morning."

He glanced round stealthily and obeyed instructions: "I guess its
safe--my darling."

"Did you sleep, dovie?" she yawned.

"Not a wink. They took off the Portland car at Granger and I had to
sleep in one of the chairs in the observation room."

Mrs. Fosdick shook her head at him in mournful sympathy, and asked:
"What state are we in now?"

"A dreadful state--Nevada."

"Just what are we in Nevada?"

"I'm a bigamist, and you've never been married at all."

"Oh, these awful divorce laws!" she moaned, then left the general for
the particular: "Won't you come in and hook me up?"

Fosdick looked shocked: "I don't dare compromise you."

"Will you take breakfast with me--in the dining-car?" she pleaded.

"Do we dare?"

"We might call it luncheon," she suggested.

He seized the chance: "All right, I'll go ahead and order, and you
stroll in and I'll offer you the seat opposite me."

"But can't you hook me up?"

He was adamant: "Not till we get to California. Do you think I want to
compromise my own wife? Shh! Somebody's coming!" And he darted off to
the vestibule just as Mrs. Jimmie Wellington issued from number ten
with hair askew, eyes only half open, and waist only half shut at the
back. She made a quick spurt to the women's room, found it locked,
stamped her foot, swore under her breath, and leaned against the wall
of the car to wait.

About the same time, the man who was still her husband according to
the law, rolled out of berth number two. There was an amazing clarity
to his vision. He lurched as he made his way to the men's room, but it
was plainly the train's swerve and not an inner lurch that twisted
the forthright of his progress.

He squeezed into the men's room like a whole crowd at once, and sang
out, "Good morning, all!" with a wonderful heartiness. Then he paused
over a wash basin, rubbed his hands gleefully and proclaimed, like
another Chantecler advertising a new day:

"Well--I'm sober again!"

"Three cheers for you," said his rival in radiance, bridegroom
Lathrop.

"How does it feel?" demanded Ashton, smiling so broadly that he
encountered the lather on his brush.

While he sputtered Wellington was flipping water over his hot head and
incidentally over Ashton.

"I feel," he chortled, "I feel like the first little robin redbreast
of the merry springtime. Tweet! Tweet!"

When the excitement over his redemption had somewhat calmed, Ashton
reopened the old topic of conversation:

"Well, I see they had another scrap last night."

"They--who?" said Ira, through his flying toothbrush.

"The Mallorys. Once more he occupied number three and she number
seven."

"Well, well, I can't understand these modern marriages," said Little
Jimmie, with a side glance at Ira. Ira suddenly remembered the plight
of the Mallorys and was tempted to defend them, but he saw the young
lieutenant himself just entering the washroom. This was more than
Wellington saw, for he went on talking from behind a towel:

"Well, if I were a bridegroom and had a bride like that, it would take
more than a quarrel to send me to another berth."

The others made gestures which he could not see. His enlightenment
came when Mallory snapped the towel from his hands and glared into his
face with all the righteous wrath of a man hearing his domestic
affairs publicly discussed.

"Were you alluding to me, Mr. Wellington?" he demanded, hotly.

Little Jimmie almost perished with apoplexy: "You, you?" he mumbled.
"Why, of course not. You're not the only bridegroom on the train."

Mallory tossed him the towel again: "You meant Mr. Lathrop then?"

"Me! Not much!" roared the indignant Lathrop.

Mallory returned to Wellington with a fiercer: "Whom, then?"

He was in a dangerous mood, and Ashton came to the rescue: "Oh, don't
mind Wellington. He's not sober yet."

This inspired suggestion came like a life-buoy to the hard-pressed
Wellington. He seized it and spoke thickly: "Don't mind me--I'm not
shober yet."

"Well, it's a good thing you're not," was Mallory's final growl as he
began his own toilet.

The porter's bell began to ring furiously, with a touch they had
already come to recognize as the Englishman's. The porter had learned
to recognize it, too, and he always took double the necessary time to
answer it. He was sauntering down the aisle at his most leisurely gait
when Wedgewood's rumpled mane shot out from the curtains like a lion's
from a jungle, and he bellowed: "Pawtah! Pawtah!"

"Still on the train," said the porter.

"You may give me my portmanteau."

"Yassah." He dragged it from the upper berth, and set it inside
Wedgewood's berth without special care as to its destination. "Does
you desire anything else, sir?"

"Yes, your absence," said Wedgewood.

"The same to you and many of them," the porter muttered to himself,
and added to Marjorie, who was just starting down the aisle: "I'll
suttainly be interested in that man gittin' where he's goin' to git
to." Noting that she carried Snoozleums, he said: "We're comin' into a
station right soon." Without further discussion she handed him the
dog, and he hobbled away.

When she reached the women's door, she found Mrs. Wellington waiting
with increasing exasperation: "Come, join the line at the box office,"
she said.

"Good morning. Who's in there?" said Marjorie, and Mrs. Wellington,
not noting that Mrs. Whitcomb had come out of her berth and fallen
into line, answered sharply:

"I don't know. She's been there forever. I'm sure it's that cat of a
Mrs. Whitcomb."

"Good morning, Mrs. Mallory," snapped Mrs. Whitcomb.

Mrs. Wellington was rather proud that the random shot landed, but
Marjorie felt most uneasy between the two tigresses: "Good morning,
Mrs. Whitcomb," she said. There was a disagreeable silence, broken
finally by Mrs. Wellington's: "Oh, Mrs. Mallory, would you be angelic
enough to hook my gown?"

"Of course I will," said Marjorie.

"May I hook you?" said Mrs. Whitcomb.

"You're awfully kind," said Marjorie, presenting her shoulders to Mrs.
Whitcomb, who asked with malicious sweetness: "Why didn't your husband
do this for you this morning?"

"I--I don't remember," Marjorie stammered, and Mrs. Wellington tossed
over-shoulder an apothegm: "He's no husband till he's hook-broken."

Just then Mrs. Fosdick came out of her stateroom. Seeing Mrs.
Whitcomb's waist agape, she went at it with a brief, "Good morning,
everybody. Permit me."

Mrs. Wellington twisted her head to say "Good morning," and to ask,
"Are you hooked, Mrs. Fosdick?"

"Not yet," pouted Mrs. Fosdick.

"Turn round and back up," said Mrs. Wellington. After some
maneuvering, the women formed a complete circle, and fingers plied
hooks and eyes in a veritable Ladies' Mutual Aid Society.

By now, Wedgewood was ready to appear in a bathrobe about as gaudy as
the royal standard of Great Britain. He stalked down the aisle, and
answered the male chorus's cheery "Good morning" with a ramlike "Baw."

Ira Lathrop felt amiable even toward the foreigner, and he observed:
"Glorious morning this morning."

"I dare say," growled Wedgewood. "I don't go in much for
mawnings--especially when I have no tub."

Wellington felt called upon to squelch him: "You Englishmen never had
a real tub till we Americans sold 'em to you."

"I dare say," said Wedgewood indifferently. "You sell 'em. We use 'em.
But, do you know, I've just thought out a ripping idea. I shall have
my cold bath this mawning after all."

"What are you going to do?" growled Lathrop. "Crawl in the icewater
tank?"

"Oh, dear, no. I shouldn't be let," and he produced from his pocket a
rubber hose. "I simply affix this little tube to one end of the
spigot and wave the sprinklah hyah over my--er--my person."

Lathrop stared at him pityingly, and demanded: "What happens to the
water, then?"

"What do I care?" said Wedgewood.

"You durned fool, you'd flood the car."

Wedgewood's high hopes withered. "I hadn't thought of that," he
sighed. "I suppose I must continue just as I am till I reach San
Francisco. The first thing I shall order to-night will be four cold
tubs and a lemon squash."

While the men continued to make themselves presentable in a huddle,
the hook-and-eye society at the other end of the car finished with the
four waists and Mrs. Fosdick hurried away to keep her tryst in the
dining-car. The three remaining relapsed into dreary attitudes. Mrs.
Wellington shook the knob of the forbidding door, and turned to
complain: "What in heaven's name ails the creature in there. She must
have fallen out of the window."

"It's outrageous," said Marjorie, "the way women violate women's
rights."

Mrs. Whitcomb saw an opportunity to insert a stiletto. She observed to
Marjorie, with an innocent air: "Why, Mrs. Mallory, I've even known
women to lock themselves in there and smoke!"

While Mrs. Wellington was rummaging her brain for a fitting retort,
the door opened, and out stepped Miss Gattle, as was.

She blushed furiously at sight of the committee waiting to greet her,
but they repented their criticisms and tried to make up for them by
the excessive warmth with which they all exclaimed at once: "Good
morning, Mrs. Lathrop!"

"Good morning, who?" said Anne, then blushed yet redder: "Oh, I can't
seem to get used to that name! I hope I haven't kept you waiting?"

"Oh, not at all!" the women insisted, and Anne fled to number Six,
remembered that this was no longer her home, and moved on to number
One. Here the porter was just finishing his restoring tasks, and
laying aside with some diffidence two garments which Anne hastily
stuffed into her own valise.

Meanwhile Marjorie was pushing Mrs. Wellington ahead:

"You go in first, Mrs. Wellington."

"You go first. I have no husband waiting for me," said Mrs.
Wellington.

"Oh, I insist," said Marjorie.

"I couldn't think of it," persisted Mrs. Wellington. "I won't allow
you."

And then Mrs. Whitcomb pushed them both aside: "Pardon me, won't you?
I'm getting off at Reno."

"So am I," gasped Mrs. Wellington, rushing forward, only to be faced
by the slam of the door and the click of the key. She whirled back to
demand of Marjorie: "Did you ever hear of such impudence?"

"I never did."

"I'll never be ready for Reno," Mrs. Wellington wailed, "and I haven't
had my breakfast."

"You'd better order it in advance," said Marjorie. "It takes that chef
an hour to boil an egg three minutes."

"I will, if I can ever get my face washed," sighed Mrs. Wellington.

And now Mrs. Anne Lathrop, after much hesitation, called timidly:
"Porter--porter--please!"

"Yes--miss--missus!" he amended.

"Will you call my--" she gulped--"my husband?"

"Yes, ma'am," the porter chuckled, and putting his grinning head in at
the men's door, he bowed to Ira and said: "Excuse me, but you are sent
for by the lady in number One."

Ashton slapped him on the back and roared: "Oh, you married man!"

"Well," said Ira, in self-defence, "I don't hear anybody sending for
you." Wedgewood grinned at Ashton. "I rather fancy he had you theah,
old top, eh, what?"

Ira appeared at number One, and bending over his treasure-trove, spoke
in a voice that was pure saccharine: "Are you ready for breakfast,
dear?"

"Yes, Ira."

"Come along to the dining-car."

"It's cosier here," she said. "Couldn't we have it served here?"

"But it'll get all cold, and I'm hungry," pouted the old bachelor, to
whom breakfast was a sacred institution.

"All right, Ira," said Anne, glad to be meek; "come along," and she
rose.

Ira hesitated. "Still, if you'd rather, we'll eat here." He sat down.

"Oh, not at all," said Anne; "we'll go where you want to go."

"But I want to do what you want to do."

"So do I--we'll go," said Anne.

"We'll stay."

"No, I insist on the dining-car."

"Oh, all right, have your own way," said Ira, as if he were being
bullied, and liked it. Anne smiled at the contrariness of men, and Ira
smiled at the contrariness of women, and when they reached the
vestibule they kissed each other in mutual forgiveness.

As Wedgewood stropped an old-fashioned razor, he said to Ashton, who
was putting up his safety equipment: "I say, old party, are those
safety razors safe? Can't you really cut yourself?"

"Cut everything but hair," said Ashton, pointing to his wounded chin.

Mallory put out his hand: "Would you be kind enough to lend me your
razor again this morning?"

"Sure thing," said Ashton. "You'll find your blade in the box there."

Mallory then negotiated the loan of one more fresh shirt from the
Englishman, and a clean collar from Ashton. He rejoiced that the end
of the day would bring him in touch with his own baggage. Four days of
foraging on the country was enough for this soldier.

Also he felt, now that he and Marjorie had lived thus long, they could
survive somehow till evening brought them to San Francisco, where
there were hundreds of ministers. And then the conductor must ruin his
early morning optimism, though he made his appearance in the washroom
with genial good mornings for all.

Mallory acknowledged the greeting, and asked offhandedly: "By the way,
how's she running?"

The conductor answered even more offhandedly: "About two hours
late--and losin'."

Mallory was transfixed with a new fear: "Good Lord, my transport sails
at sunrise."

"Oh, we ought to make 'Frisco by midnight, anyway."

"Midnight, and sail at daylight!"

"Unless we lose a little more time."

Mallory realized that every new day managed to create its own
anxieties. With the regularity of a milkman, each morning left a fresh
crisis on his doorstep.



CHAPTER XXXIV

THE COMPLETE DIVORCER


The other passengers were growing nervous with their own troubles. The
next stop was Reno, and in spite of all the wit that is heaped upon
the town, it is a solemn place to those who must go there in
purgatorial penance for matrimonial error.

Some honest souls regard such divorce-emporiums as dens of evil, where
the wicked make a mockery of the sacrament and assail the foundations
of society, by undermining the home. Other equally honest souls,
believing that marriage is a human institution whose mishaps and
mistakes should be rectified as far as possible, regard the divorce
courts as cities of refuge for ill-treated or ill-mated women and men
whose lives may be saved from utter ruination by the intervention of
high-minded judges.

But, whichever view is right, the ordeal by divorce is terrifying
enough to the poor sinners or martyrs who must undergo it.

Little Jimmie Wellington turned pale, and stammered, as he tried to
ask the conductor casually:

"What kind of a place is that Reno?"

The conductor, somewhat cynical from close association with the
divorce-mill and its grist, grinned: "That depends on what you're
leaving behind. Most folks seem to get enough of it in about six
months."

Then he went his way, leaving Wellington red, agape and perplexed. The
trouble with Wellington was that he had brought along what he was
leaving behind. Or, as Ashton impudently observed: "You ought to enjoy
your residence there, Wellington, with your wife on hand."

The only repartee that Wellington could think of was a rather
uninspired: "You go to ----."

"So long as it isn't Reno," Ashton laughed, and walked away.

Wedgewood laid a sympathetic hand on Little Jimmie's shoulder, and
said:

"That Ashton is no end of a bounder, what?"

Wellington wrote his epitaph in these words:

"Well, the worst I can say of him is, he's the kind of man that
doesn't lift the plug out when he's through with the basin."

He liked this so well that he wished he had thought of it in time to
crack it over Ashton's head. He decided to hand it to him anyway. He
forgot that the cardinal rule for repartee, is "Better never than
late."

As he swung out of the men's room he was buttonholed by an individual
new to the little Trans-American colony. One of the camp-followers and
sutlers who prosper round the edges of all great enterprises had
waylaid him on the way to the battleground of marital freedom.

The stranger had got on at an earlier stop and worked his way through
the train to the car named "Snowdrop." Wellington was his first victim
here. His pushing manner, the almost vulture-like rapacity of his
gleaming eyes, and the very vulturine contour of his profile, his
palmy gestures, his thick lisp, and everything about him gave
Wellington his immediate pedigree.

It ill behooves Christendom to need reminding that the Jewish race has
adorned and still adorns humanity with some of its noblest specimens;
but this interloper was of the type that must have irritated Voltaire
into answering the platitude that the Jews are God's chosen people
with that other platitude, "Tastes differ."

Little Jimmie Wellington, hot in pursuit of Ashton, found himself
checked in spite of himself; in spite of himself deposited somehow
into a seat, and in spite of himself confronted with a curvilinear
person, who said:

"Excoose, pleass! but are you gettink off at R-r-reno?"

"I am," Wellington answered, curtly, essaying to rise, only to be
delicately restored to his place with a gesture and a phrase:

"Then you neet me."

"Oh, I need you, do I? And who are you?"

"Who ain't I? I am Baumann and Blumen. Our cart, pleass."

Wellington found a pasteboard in his hand and read the legend:


     Real Estate Agents.              Baggage Transfer.

                      Baumann & Blumen

                     DIVORCE OUTFITTERS,

     212 Alimony Avenue,                    Reno, Nev.

     Notary Public.            Divorces Secured.
     Justice of the Peace.     Satisfaction Guaranteed.


Wellington looked from the crowded card to the zealous face. "Divorce
Outfitters, eh? I don't quite get you."

"Vell, in the foist place----"

"'The foist place,' eh? You're from New York."

"Yes, oritchinally. How did you know it? By my feshionable clothink?"

"Yes," laughed Wellington. "But you say I need you. How?"

"Vell, you've got maybe some beggetch, some trunks--yes?"

"Yes."

"Vell, in the foist place, I am an expressman. I deliver 'em to your
address--yes? Vere iss it?"

"I haven't got any yet."

"Also I am addressman. Do you vant it a nice hotel?--or a fine
house?--or an apartment?--or maybe a boarding-house?--yes? How long do
you make a residence?"

"Six months."

"No longer?"

"Not a minute."

"Take a fine house, den. I got some beauties just wacated."

"For a year?--no thanks."

"All the leases in Reno run for six months only."

"Well, I'd like to look around a little first."

"Good. Don't forget us. You come out here for six months. You vant
maybe a good quick divorce--yes?"

"The quickest I can get."

"Do you vant it confidential? or very nice and noisy?"

"What's that?"

"Ve are press agents and also suppress agents. Some likes 'em one way,
some likes 'em anudder. Vich do you vant it?"

"Quick and quiet."

"Painless divorce is our specialty. If you pay me an advence deposit
now, I file your claim de minute de train stops and your own vife
don't know you're divorced."

"I'll think it over," said Wellington, rising with resolution.

"Don't forget us. Baumann and Blumen. Satisfaction guaranteed or your
wife refunded. Avoid substitoots." And then, seeing that he could not
extract any cash from Little Jimmie, Mr. Baumann descended upon
Mallory, who was just finishing his shave. Laying his hand on
Mallory's arm, he began:

"Excoose, pleass. Can I fit you out vit a nice divorce?"

"Divorce?--me!--that's good," laughed Mallory at the vision of it.
Then a sudden idea struck him. It took no great genius to see that Mr.
Baumann was not a clergyman, but there were other marriers to be had.
"You don't perform marriages, do you?" he asked.

Mr. Baumann drew himself up: "Who says I don't? Ain't I a justice of
the peaces?"

Mallory put out his hand in welcome: then a new anxiety chilled him.
He had a license for Chicago, but Chicago was far away: "Do I need a
license in Nevada?"

"Why shouldn't you?" said Mr. Baumann. "Don't all sorts of things got
to have a license in Nevada, saloons, husbands, dogs----"

"How could I get one?" Mallory asked as he went on dressing.

"Ain't I got a few vit me? Do you vant to get a nice re-marriage
license?"

"Re-marriage?--huh!" he looked round and, seeing that no one else was
near: "I haven't taken the first step yet."

Mr. Baumann layed his hands in one another: "A betchelor? Ah, I see
you vant to marry a nice divorcee lady in R-r-reno?"

"She isn't in Reno and she has never been married, either."

This simple statement seemed to astound Mr. Baumann:

"A betcheller marry a maiden!--in Reno!--oi, oi, oi! It hasn't been
done yet, but it might be."

Mallory looked him over and a twinge of distaste disturbed him: "You
furnish the license, but--er--ah--is there any chance of a
clergyman--a Christian clergyman--being at the station?"

"Vy do you vant it a cloigyman? Can't I do it just as good? Or a nice
fat alderman I can get you?"

Mallory pondered: "I don't think she'd like anything but a clergyman."

"Vell," Baumann confessed, "a lady is liable to be particular about
her foist marriage. Anyvay I sell you de license."

"All right."

Mr. Baumann whipped out a portfolio full of documents, and as he
searched them, philosophized: "A man ought alvays to carry a good
marriage license. It might be he should need it in a hurry." He took
a large iron seal from his side-pocket and stamped the paper and then,
with fountain pen poised, pleaded: "Vat is the names, pleass?"

"Not so loud!" Mallory whispered.

Baumann put his finger to his nose, wisely: "I see, it is a
confidential marriage. Sit down once."

When he had asked Mallory the necessary questions and taken his fee,
he passed over the document by which the sovereign state of Nevada
graciously permitted two souls to be made more or less one in the eyes
of the law.

"Here you are," said Mr. Baumann. "Vit dat you can get married anyvere
in Nevada."

Mallory realized that Nevada would be a thing of the past in a few
hours more and he asked:

"It's no good in California?"

"Himmel, no. In California you bot' gotta go and be examined."

"Examined!" Mallory gasped, in dire alarm.

"Vit questions, poissonally," Mr. Baumann hastened to explain.

"Oh!"

"In Nevada," Baumann insinuated, still hopeful, "I could marry you
myself--now, right here."

"Could you marry us in this smoking room?"

"In a cattle car, if you vant it."

"It's not a bad idea," said Mallory. "I'll let you know."

Seeing Marjorie coming down the aisle, he hastened to her, and hugged
her good-morning with a new confidence.

Dr. and Mrs. Temple, who had returned to their berth, witnessed this
greeting with amazement. After the quarrel of the night before surely
some explanation should have been overheard, but the puzzling Mallorys
flew to each other's arms without a moment's delay. The mystery was
exciting the passengers to such a point that they were vowing to ask a
few questions point blank. Nobody had quite dared to approach either
of them, but frank curiosity was preferable to nervous prostration,
and the secret could not be kept much longer. Fellow-passengers have
some rights. Not even a stranger can be permitted to outrage their
curiosity with impunity forever.

Seeing them together, Mrs. Temple watched the embrace with her daily
renewal of joy that the last night's quarrel had not proved fatal. She
nudged her husband:

"See, they're making up again."

Dr. Temple was moved to a violent outburst for him: "Well, that's the
darnedest bridal couple--I only said darn, my dear."

He was still more startled when Mr. Baumann, cruising along the aisle,
bent over to murmur: "Can I fix you a nice divorce?"

Dr. Temple rose in such an attitude of horror as he assumed in the
pulpit when denouncing the greatest curse of society, and Mr. Baumann
retired. As he passed Mallory he cast an appreciative glance at
Marjorie and, tapping Mallory's shoulder, whispered: "No vonder you
want a marriage license. I'll be in the next car, should you neet me."
Then he went on his route.

Marjorie stared after him in wonder and asked: "What did that person
mean by what he said?"

"It's all right, Marjorie," Mallory explained, in the highest cheer:
"We can get married right away."

Marjorie declined to get her hopes up again: "You're always saying
that."

"But here's the license--see?"

"What good is that?" she said, "there's no preacher on board."

"But that man is a justice of the peace and he'll marry us."

Marjorie stared at him incredulously: "That creature!--before all
these passengers?"

"Not at all," Mallory explained. "We'll go into the smoking room."

Marjorie leaped to her feet, aghast: "Elope two thousand miles to be
married in a smoking room by a Yiddish drummer! Harry Mallory, you're
crazy."

Put just that way, the proposition did not look so alluring as at
first. He sank back with a sigh: "I guess I am. I resign."

He was as weary of being "foiled again" as the villain of a cheap
melodrama. The two lovers sat in a twilight of deep melancholy, till
Marjorie's mind dug up a new source of alarm:

"Harry, I've just thought of something terrible."

"Let's have it," he sighed, drearily.

"We reach San Francisco at midnight and you sail at daybreak. What
becomes of me?"

Mallory had no answer to this problem, except a grim: "I'll not desert
you."

"But we'll have no time to get married."

"Then," he declared with iron resolve, "then I'll resign from the
Army."

Marjorie stared at him with awe. He was so wonderful, so heroic. "But
what will the country do without you?"

"It will have to get along the best it can," he answered with
finality. "Do you think I'd give you up?"

But this was too much to ask. In the presence of a ruined career and a
hero-less army, Marjorie felt that her own scruples were too petty to
count. She could be heroic, too.

"No!" she said, in a deep, low tone, "No, we'll get married in the
smoking room. Go call your drummer!"

This opened the clouds and let in the sun again with such a radiant
blaze that Mallory hesitated no longer. "Fine!" he cried, and leaped
to his feet, only to be detained again by Marjorie's clutch:

"But first, what about that bracelet?"

"She's got it," Mallory groaned, slumping from the heights again.

"Do you mean to say she's still wearing it?"

"How was I to get it?"

"Couldn't you have slipped into her car last night and stolen it?"

"Good Lord, I shouldn't think you'd want me to go--why, Marjorie--I'd
be arrested!"

But Marjorie set her jaw hard: "Well, you get that bracelet, or you
don't get me." And then her smouldering jealousy and grief took a less
hateful tone: "Oh, Harry!" she wailed, "I'm so lonely and so helpless
and so far from home."

"But I'm here," he urged.

"You're farther away than anybody," she whimpered, huddling close to
him.

"Poor little thing," he murmured, soothing her with voice and kiss and
caress.

"Put your arm round me," she cooed, like a mourning dove, "I don't
care if everybody is looking. Oh, I'm so lonely."

"I'm just as lonely as you are," he pleaded, trying to creep into the
company of her misery.

"Please marry me soon," she implored, "won't you, please?"

"I'd marry you this minute if you'd say the word," he whispered.

"I'd say it if you only had that bracelet," she sobbed, like a tired
child. "I should think you would understand my feelings. That awful
person is wearing your bracelet and I have only your ring, and her
bracelet is ten times as big as my r-i-ing, boo-hoo-hoo-oo!"

"I'll get that bracelet if I have to chop her arm off," Mallory vowed.

The sobs stopped short, as Marjorie looked up to ask: "Have you got
your sword with you?"

"It's in my trunk," he said, "but I'll manage."

"Now you're speaking like a soldier," Marjorie exclaimed, "my brave,
noble, beautiful, fearless husband. I'll tell you! That creature will
pass through this car on her way to breakfast. You grab her and take
the bracelet away from her."

"I grab her, eh?" he stammered, his heroism wavering a trifle.

"Yes, just grab her."

"Suppose she hasn't the bracelet on?" he mused.

"Grab her anyway," Marjorie answered, fiercely. "Besides, I've no
doubt it's wished on." He said nothing. "You did wish it on, didn't
you?"

"No, no--never--of course not--" he protested "If you'll only be calm.
I'll get it if I have to throttle her."

Like a young Lady Macbeth, Marjorie gave him her utter approval in any
atrocity, and they sat in ambush for their victim to pass into view.

They had not had their breakfast, but they forgot it. A dusky waiter
went by chanting his "Lass call for breakfuss in Rining Rar." He
chanted it thrice in their ears, but they never heard. Marjorie was
gloating over the discomfiture of the odious creature who had dared to
precede her in the acquaintance of her husband-to-be. The
husband-to-be was miserably wishing that he had to face a tribe of
bolo-brandishing Moros, instead of this trivial girl whom he had
looked upon when her cheeks were red.



CHAPTER XXXV

MR. AND MRS. LITTLE JIMMIE


Mrs. Sammy Whitcomb had longed for the sweet privilege of squaring
matters with Mrs. Jimmie Wellington. Sneers and back-biting, shrugs
and shudders of contempt were poor compensation for the ever-vivid
fact that Mrs. Wellington had proved attractive to her Sammy while
Mrs. Wellington's Jimmie never looked at Mrs. Whitcomb. Or if he did,
his eyes had been so blurred that he had seen two of her--and avoided
both.

Yesterday she had overheard Jimmie vow sobriety. To-day his shining
morning face showed that he had kept his word. She could hardly wait
to begin the flirtation which, she trusted, would render Mrs.
Wellington helplessly furious for six long Reno months.

The Divorce Drummer interposed and held Jimmie prisoner for a time,
but as soon as Mr. Baumann released him, Mrs. Whitcomb apprehended
him. With a smile that beckoned and with eyes that went out like
far-cast fishhooks, she drew Leviathan into her net.

She reeled him in and he plounced in the seat opposite. What she took
for bashfulness was reluctance. To add the last charm to her success,
Mrs. Wellington arrived to see it. Mrs. Whitcomb saw the lonely Ashton
rise and offer her the seat facing him. Mrs. Wellington took it and
sat down with the back of her head so close to the back of Mr.
Wellington's head that the feather in her hat tickled his neck.

Jimmie Wellington had seen his wife pass by. To his sober eyes she was
a fine sight as she moved up the aisle. In his alcohol-emancipated
mind the keen sense of wrong endured that had driven him forth to Reno
began to lose its edge. His own soul appealed from Jimmie drunk to
Jimmie sober. The appellate judge began to reverse the lower court's
decision, point by point.

He felt a sudden recrudescence of jealousy as he heard Ashton's voice
unctuously, flirtatiously offering his wife hospitality. He wanted to
trounce Ashton. But what right had he to defend from gallantry the
woman he was about to forswear before the world? Jimmie's soul was in
turmoil, and Mrs. Whitcomb's pretty face and alluring smile only
annoyed him.

She had made several gracious speeches before he quite comprehended
any of them. Then he realized that she was saying: "I'm so glad you're
going to stop at Reno, Mr. Wellington."

"Thank you. So am I," he mumbled, trying to look interested and
wishing that his wife's plume would not tickle his neck.

Mrs. Whitcomb went on, leaning closer: "We two poor mistreated
wretches must try to console one another, musn't we?"

"Yes,--yes,--we must," Wellington nodded, with a sickly cheer.

Mrs. Whitcomb leaned a little closer. "Do you know that I feel almost
related to you, Mr. Wellington?"

"Related?" he echoed, "you?--to me? How?"

"My husband knew your wife so well."

Somehow a wave of jealous rage surged over him, and he growled: "Your
husband is a scoundrel."

Mrs. Whitcomb's smile turned to vinegar: "Oh, I can't permit you to
slander the poor boy behind his back. It was all your wife's fault."

Wellington amazed himself by his own bravery when he heard himself
volleying back: "And I can't permit you to slander my wife behind her
back. It was all your husband's fault."

Mrs. Jimmie overheard this behind her back, and it strangely thrilled
her. She ignored Ashton's existence and listened for Mrs. Whitcomb's
next retort. It consisted of a simple, icy drawl: "I think I'll go to
breakfast."

She seemed to pick up Ashton with her eyes as she glided by, for,
finding himself unnoticed, he rose with a careless: "I think I'll go
to breakfast," and followed Mrs. Whitcomb. The Wellingtons sat
_dos-à-dos_ for some exciting seconds, and then on a sudden impulse,
Mrs. Jimmie rose, knelt in the seat and spoke across the back of it:

"It was very nice of you to defend me, Jimmie--er--James."

Wellington almost dislocated several joints in rising quickly and
whirling round at the cordiality of her tone. But his smile vanished
at her last word. He protested, feebly: "James sounds so like a--a
butler. Can't you call me Little Jimmie again?"

Mrs. Wellington smiled indulgently: "Well, since it's the last time.
Good-bye, Little Jimmie." And she put out her hand. He seized it
hungrily and clung to it: "Good-bye?--aren't you getting off at Reno?"

"Yes, but----"

"So am I--Lucretia."

"But we can't afford to be seen together."

Still holding her hand, he temporized: "We've got to stay married for
six months at least--while we establish a residence. Couldn't
we--er--couldn't we establish a residence--er--together?"

Mrs. Wellington's eyes grew a little sad, as she answered: "It would
be too lonesome waiting for you to roll home."

Jimmie stared at her. He felt the regret in her voice and took strange
courage from it. He hauled from his pocket his huge flask, and said
quickly: "Well, if you're jealous of this, I'll promise to cork it up
forever."

She shook her head skeptically: "You couldn't."

"Just to prove it," he said, "I'll chuck it out of the window." He
flung up the sash and made ready to hurl his enemy into the flying
landscape.

"Bravo!" cried Mrs. Wellington.

But even as his hand was about to let go, he tightened his clutch
again, and pondered: "It seems a shame to waste it."

"I thought so," said Mrs. Jimmie, drooping perceptibly. Her husband
began to feel that, after all, she cared what became of him.

"I'll tell you," he said, "I'll give it to old Doc Temple. He takes
his straight."

"Fine!"

He turned towards the seat where the clergyman and his wife were
sitting, oblivious of the drama of reconciliation playing so close at
hand. Little Jimmie paused, caressed the flask, and kissed it.
"Good-bye, old playmate!" Then, tossing his head with bravado, he
reached out and touched the clergyman's shoulder. Dr. Temple turned
and rose with a questioning look. Wellington put the flask in his hand
and chuckled: "Merry Christmas!"

"But, my good man----" the preacher objected, finding in his hand a
donation about as welcome and as wieldy as a strange baby. Wellington
winked: "It may come in handy for--your patients."

And now, struck with a sudden idea, Mrs. Wellington spoke: "Oh, Mrs.
Temple."

"Yes, my dear," said the little old lady, rising. Mrs. Wellington
placed in her hand a small portfolio and laughed: "Happy New Year!"

Mrs. Temple stared at her gift and gasped: "Great heavens! Your
cigars!"

"They'll be such a consolation," Mrs. Wellington explained, "while the
Doctor is out with his patients."

Dr. Temple and Mrs. Temple looked at each other in dismay, then at the
flask and the cigars, then at the Wellingtons, then they stammered:
"Thank you so much," and sank back, stupefied.

Wellington stared at his wife: "Lucretia, are you sincere?"

"Jimmie, I promise you I'll never smoke another cigar."

"My love!" he cried, and seized her hand. "You know I always said you
were a queen among women, Lucretia."

She beamed back at him: "And you always were the prince of good
fellows, Jimmie." Then she almost blushed as she murmured, almost
shyly: "May I pour your coffee for you again this morning?"

"For life," he whispered, and they moved up the aisle, arm in arm,
bumping from seat to seat and not knowing it.

When Mrs. Whitcomb, seated in the dining-car, saw Mrs. Little Jimmie
pour Mr. Little Jimmie's coffee, she choked on hers. She vowed that
she would not permit those odious Wellingtons to make fools of her and
her Sammy. She resolved to telegraph Sammy that she had changed her
mind about divorcing him, and order him to take the first train West
and meet her half-way on her journey home.



CHAPTER XXXVI

A DUEL FOR A BRACELET


All this while Marjorie and Mallory had sat watching, as kingfishers
shadow a pool, the door wherethrough the girl with the bracelet must
pass on her way to breakfast.

"She's taking forever with her toilet," sniffed Marjorie. "Probably
trying to make a special impression on you."

"She's wasting her time," said Mallory. "But what if she brings her
mother along? No, I guess her mother is too fat to get there and
back."

"If her mother comes," Marjorie decided, "I'll hold her while you take
the bracelet away from the--the--from that creature. Quick, here she
comes now! Be brave!"

Mallory wore an aspect of arrant cowardice: "Er--ah--I--I----"

"You just grab her!" Marjorie explained. Then they relapsed into
attitudes of impatient attention. Kathleen floated in and, seeing
Mallory, she greeted him with radiant warmth: "Good morning!" and
then, catching sight of Marjorie, gave her a "Good morning!" coated
with ice. She flounced past and Mallory sat inert, till Marjorie gave
him a ferocious pinch, whereupon he leaped to his feet:

"Oh, Miss--er--Miss Kathleen." Kathleen whirled round with a most
hospitable smile. "May I have a word with you?"

"Of course you can, you dear boy." Marjorie winced at this and writhed
at what followed: "Shan't we take breakfast together?"

Mallory stuttered: "I--I--no, thank you--I've had breakfast."

Kathleen froze up again as she snapped: "With
that--train-acquaintance, I suppose."

"Oh, no," Mallory amended, "I mean I haven't had breakfast."

But Kathleen scowled with a jealousy of her own: "You seem to be
getting along famously for mere train-acquaintances."

"Oh, that's all we are, and hardly that," Mallory hastened to say with
too much truth. "Sit down here a moment, won't you?"

"No, no, I haven't time," she said, and sat down. "Mamma will be
waiting for me. You haven't been in to see her yet?"

"No. You see----"

"She cried all night."

"For me?"

"No, for papa. He's such a good traveler--and he had such a good
start. She really kept the whole car awake."

"Too bad," Mallory condoled, perfunctorily, then with sudden
eagerness, and a trial at indifference: "I see you have that bracelet
still."

"Of course, you dear fellow. I wouldn't be parted from it for worlds."

Marjorie gnashed her teeth, but Kathleen could not hear that. She
gushed on: "And now we have met again! It looks like Fate, doesn't
it?"

"It certainly does," Mallory assented, bitterly; then again, with
zest: "Let me see that old bracelet, will you?"

He tried to lay hold of it, but Kathleen giggled coyly: "It's just an
excuse to hold my hand." She swung her arm over the back of the seat
coquettishly, and Marjorie made a desperate lunge at it, but missed,
since Kathleen, finding that Mallory did not pursue the fugitive hand,
brought it back at once and yielded it up:

"There--be careful, someone might look."

Mallory took her by the wrist in a gingerly manner, and said, "So
that's the bracelet? Take it off, won't you?"

"Never!--it's wished on," Kathleen protested, sentimentally. "Don't
you remember that evening in the moonlight?"

Mallory caught Marjorie's accusing eye and lost his head. He made a
ferocious effort to snatch the bracelet off. When this onset failed,
he had recourse to entreaty: "Just slip it off." Kathleen shook her
head tantalizingly. Mallory urged more strenuously: "Please let me see
it."

Kathleen shook her head with sophistication: "You'd never give it
back. You'd pass it along to that--train-acquaintance."

"How can you think such a thing?" Mallory demurred, and once more made
his appeal: "Please please, slip it off."

"What on earth makes you so anxious?" Kathleen demanded, with sudden
suspicion. Mallory was stumped, till an inspiration came to him: "I'd
like to--to get you a nicer one. That one isn't good enough for you."

Here was an argument that Kathleen could appreciate. "Oh, how sweet of
you, Harry," she gurgled, and had the bracelet down to her knuckles,
when a sudden instinct checked her: "When you bring the other, you can
have this."

She pushed the circlet back, and Mallory's hopes sank at the gesture.
He grew frantic at being eternally frustrated in his plans. He caught
Kathleen's arm and, while his words pleaded, his hands tugged:
"Please--please let me take it--for the measure--you know!"

Kathleen read the determination in his fierce eyes, and she struggled
furiously: "Why, Richard--Chauncey!--er--Billy! I'm amazed at you! Let
go or I'll scream!"

  [Illustration: "WHY, RICHARD--CHAUNCEY!--ER--BILLY! I'M AMAZED AT YOU!
   LET GO, OR I'LL SCREAM!"]

She rose and, twisting her arm from his grasp, confronted him with
bewildered anger. Mallory cast toward Marjorie a look of surrender and
despair. Marjorie laid her hand on her throat and in pantomime
suggested that Mallory should throttle Kathleen, as he had promised.

But Mallory was incapable of further violence; and when Kathleen, with
all her coquetry, bent down and murmured: "You are a very naughty boy,
but come to breakfast and we'll talk it over," he was so addled that
he answered: "Thanks, but I never eat breakfast."



CHAPTER XXXVII

DOWN BRAKES!


Just as Kathleen flung her head in baffled vexation, and Mallory
started to slink back to Marjorie, with another defeat, there came an
abrupt shock as if that gigantic child to whom our railroad trains are
toys, had reached down and laid violent hold on the Trans-American in
full career.

Its smooth, swift flight became suddenly such a spasm of jars, shivers
and thuds that Mallory cried:

"We're off the track."

He was sent flopping down the aisle like a bolster hurled through the
car. He brought up with a sickening slam across the seat into which
Marjorie had been jounced back with a breath-taking slam. And then
Kathleen came flying backwards and landed in a heap on both of them.

Several of the other passengers were just returning from breakfast and
they were shot and scattered all over the car as if a great chain of
human beads had burst.

Women screamed, men yelled, and then while they were still struggling
against the seats and one another, the train came to a halt.

"Thank God, we stopped in time!" Mallory gasped, as he tried to
disengage himself and Marjorie from Kathleen.

The passengers began to regain their courage with their equilibrium.
Little Jimmie Wellington had flown the whole length of the car,
clinging to his wife as if she were Francesca da Rimini, and he Paolo,
flitting through Inferno. The flight ended at the stateroom door with
such a thump that Mrs. Fosdick was sure a detective had come for her
at last, and with a battering ram.

But when Jimmie got back breath enough to talk, he remembered the
train-stopping excitement of the day before and called out:

"Has Mrs. Mallory lost that pup again?"

Everybody laughed uproariously at this. People will laugh at anything
or nothing when they have been frightened almost to death and suddenly
relieved of anxiety.

Everybody was cracking a joke at Marjorie's expense. Everybody felt a
good-natured grudge against her for being such a mystery. The car was
ringing with hilarity, when the porter came stumbling in and paused at
the door, with eyes all white, hands waving frantically, and lips
flapping like flannel, in a vain effort to speak.

The passengers stopped laughing at Marjorie, to laugh at the porter.
Ashton sang out:

"What's the matter with you, Porter? Are you trying to crow?"

Everybody roared at this, till the porter finally managed to
articulate:

"T-t-t-train rob-rob-robbers!"

Silence shut down as if the whole crowd had been smitten with
paralysis. From somewhere outside and ahead came a pop-popping as of
firecrackers. Everybody thought, "Revolvers!" The reports were mingled
with barbaric yells that turned the marrow in every bone to snow.

These regions are full of historic terror. All along the Nevada route
the conductor, the brakemen and old travelers had pointed out scene
after scene where the Indians had slaked the thirst of the arid land
with white man's blood. Ashton, who had traveled this way many times,
had made himself fascinatingly horrifying the evening before and
ruined several breakfasts that morning in the dining-car, by regaling
the passengers with stories of pioneer ordeals, men and women
massacred in burning wagons, or dragged away to fiendish cruelty and
obscene torture, staked out supine on burning wastes with eyelids cut
off, bound down within reach of rattlesnakes, subjected to every
misery that human deviltry could devise.

Ashton had brought his fellow passengers to a state of ecstatic
excitability, and, like many a recounter of burglar stories at night,
had tuned his own nerves to high tension.

The violent stopping of the train, the heart-shaking yells and shots
outside, found the passengers already apt to respond without delay to
the appeals of fright. After the first hush of dread, came the
reaction to panic.

Each passenger showed his own panic in his own way. Ashton whirled
round and round, like a horse with the blind staggers, then bolted
down the aisle, knocking aside men and women. He climbed on a seat,
pulled down an upper berth, and, scrambling into it, tried to shut it
on himself. Mrs. Whitcomb was so frightened that she assailed Ashton
with fury and seizing his feet, dragged him back into the aisle, and
beat him with her fists, demanding that he protect her and save her
for Sammy's sake.

Mrs. Fosdick, rushing out of her stateroom and not finding her
luscious-eyed husband, laid hold of Jimmie Wellington and ordered him
to go to the rescue of her spouse. Mrs. Wellington tore her hands
loose, crying: "Let him go, madam. He has a wife of his own to
defend."

Jimmie was trying to pour out dying messages, and only sputtering,
forgetting that he had put his watch in his mouth to hide it, though
its chain was still attached to his waistcoat.

Anne Gattle, who had read much about Chinese atrocities to
missionaries, gave herself up to death, yet rejoiced greatly that she
had provided a timely man to lean on and should not have to enter
Paradise a spinster, providing she could manage to convert Ira in the
next few seconds, before it was everlastingly too late. She was
begging her first heathen to join her in a gospel hymn. But Ira was
roaring curses like a pirate captain in a hurricane, and swearing that
the villains should not rob him of his bride.

Mrs. Temple wrung her twitching hands and tried to drag her husband to
his knees, crying:

"Oh, Walter, Walter, won't you please say a prayer?--a good strong
prayer?"

But the preacher was so confused that he answered: "What's the use of
prayer in an emergency like this?"

"Walter!" she shrieked.

"I'm on my va-vacation, you know," he stammered.

Marjorie was trying at the same time to compel Mallory to crawl under
a seat and to find a place to hide Snoozleums, whom she was warning
not to say a word. Snoozleums, understanding only that his mistress
was in some distress, refused to stay in his basket and kept offering
his services and his attentions.

Suddenly Marjorie realized that Kathleen was trying to faint in
Mallory's arms, and forgot everything else in a determined effort to
prevent her.

After the first blood-sweat of abject fright had begun to cool, the
passengers came to realize that the invaders were not after lives, but
loot. Then came a panic of miserly effort to conceal treasure.

Kathleen, finding herself banished from Mallory's protection, ran to
Mrs. Whitcomb, who had given Ashton up as a hopeless task.

"What shall we do, oh, what, oh what shall we do, dear Mrs.
Wellington?" she cried.

"Don't you dare call me Mrs. Wellington!" Mrs. Whitcomb screamed; then
she began to flutter. "But we'd better hide what we can. I hope the
rah-rah-robbers are ge-gentlemen-men."

She pushed a diamond locket containing a small portrait of Sammy into
her back hair, leaving part of the chain dangling. Then she tried to
stuff a large handbag into her stocking.

Mrs. Fosdick found her husband at last, for he made a wild dash to her
side, embraced her, called her his wife and defied all the powers of
Nevada to tear them apart. He had a brilliant idea. In order to save
his fat wallet from capture, he tossed it through an open window. It
fell at the feet of one of the robbers as he ran along the side of the
car, shooting at such heads as were put out of windows. He picked it
up and dropped it into the feed-bag he had swung at his side. Then
running on, he clambered over the brass rail of the observation
platform and entered the rear of the train, as his confederate,
driving the conductor ahead of him, forged his way aft from the front,
while a third masquerader aligned the engineer, the fireman, the
brakeman and the baggagemen.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

HANDS UP!


All this time Lieutenant Mallory had been thinking as hard as an
officer in an ambuscade. His harrowing experiences and incessant
defeats of the past days had unnerved him and shattered his
self-confidence. He was not afraid, but intensely disgusted. He sat
absent-mindedly patting Marjorie on the back and repeating:

"Don't worry, honey, they're not going to hurt anybody. They don't
want anything but our money. Don't worry, I won't let 'em hurt you."

But he could not shake off a sense of nausea. He felt himself a
representative of the military prowess of the country, and here he was
as helpless as a man on parole.

The fact that Mallory was a soldier occurred to a number of the
passengers simultaneously. They had been trained by early studies in
those beautiful works of fiction, the school histories of the United
States, and by many Fourths of July, to believe that the American
soldier is an invincible being, who has never been defeated and never
known fear.

They surged up to Mallory in a wave of hope. Dr. Temple, being
nearest, spoke first. Having learned by experience that his own
prayers were not always answered as he wished, had an impulse to try
some weapon he had never used.

"Young man," he pleaded across the back of a seat, "will you kindly
lend me a gun?"

Mallory answered sullenly: "Mine is in my trunk on the train ahead,
damn it. If I had it I'd have a lot of fun."

Mrs. Whitcomb had an inspiration. She ran to her berth, and came back
with a tiny silver-plated revolver.

"I'll lend you this. Sammy gave it to me to protect myself in Nevada!"

Mallory smiled at the .22-calibre toy, broke it open, and displayed an
empty cylinder.

"Where are the pills that go with it?" he said.

"Oh, Sammy wouldn't let me have any bullets. He was afraid I'd hurt
myself."

Mallory returned it, with a bow. "It would make an excellent
nut-cracker."

"Aren't you going to use it?" Mrs. Whitcomb gasped.

"It's empty," Mallory explained.

"But the robbers don't know that! Couldn't you just overawe them with
it?"

"Not with that," said Mallory, "unless they died laughing."

Mrs. Wellington pushed forward: "Then what the devil are you going to
do when they come?"

Mallory answered meekly: "If they request it, I shall hold up my
hands."

"And you won't resist?" Kathleen gasped.

"Not a resist."

"And he calls himself a soldier!" she sneered.

Mallory writhed, but all he said was: "A soldier doesn't have to be a
jackass. I know just enough about guns not to monkey with the wrong
end of 'em."

"Coward!" she flung at him. He turned white, but Marjorie red, and
made a leap at her, crying: "He's the bravest man in the world. You
say a word, and I'll scratch your eyes out."

This reheartened Mallory a little, and he laughed nervously, as he
restrained her. Kathleen retreated out of danger, with a parting shot:
"Our engagement is off."

"Thanks," Mallory said, and put out his hand: "Will you return the
bracelet?"

"I never return such things," said Kathleen.

The scene was so painful and such an anachronism that Dr. Temple tried
to renew a more pressing subject: "It's your opinion then that we'd
best surrender?"

"Of course--since we can't run."

Wedgewood broke in impatiently: "Well, I consider it a dastardly
outrage. I'll not submit to it. I'm a subject of His Majesty the----"

"You're a subject of His Majesty the Man Behind the Gun," said
Mallory.

"I shall protest, none the less," Wedgewood insisted.

Mallory grinned a little. "Have you any last message to send home to
your mother?"

Wedgewood was a trifle chilled at this. "D-don't talk of such things,"
he said.

And by this time the train-robbers had hastily worked their way
through the other passengers, and reached the frantic inhabitants of
the sleeper, "Snowdrop."

"Hands up! Higher!! Hands up!"

With a true sense of the dramatic, the robbers sent ahead of them the
most hair-raising yells. They arrived simultaneously at each end of
the aisle, and with a few short sharp commands, straightened the
disorderly rabble into a beautiful line, with all palms aloft and all
eyes wide and wild.

One robber drove ahead of him the conductor and the other drove in Mr.
Manning, whom he had found trying to crawl between the shelves of the
linen-closet.

The marauders were apparently cattlemen, from their general get-up.
Their hats were pulled low, and just beneath their eyes they had drawn
big black silk handkerchiefs, tied behind the ears and hanging to the
breast.

Over their shoulders they had slung the feed-bags of their horses, to
serve as receptacles for their swag. Their shirts were chalky with
alkali dust. Their legs were encased in heavy chaparejos, and they
carried each a pair of well-used Colt's revolvers that looked as big
as artillery.

When the passengers had shoved and jostled into line, one of the men
jabbed the conductor in the back with the muzzle of his gun, and
snarled: "Now speak your little piece, like I learned it to you."

The conductor, like an awkward schoolboy, grinned sheepishly, and
spoke, his hands in the air the while:

"Ladies and Gents, these here parties in the black tidies says they
want everybody to hold his or her hands as high as possible till you
git permission to lower 'em; they advise you not to resist, because
they hate the sight of blood, but prefer it to argument."

The impatient robbers, themselves the prey of fearful anxieties, broke
in, barking like a pair of coyotes in a jumble of commands: "Now, line
up with your backs that way, and no back talk. These guns shoot awful
easy. And remember, as each party is finished with, they are to turn
round and keep their hands up, on penalty of gittin' 'em shot off.
Line up! Hands up! Give over there!"

Mrs. Jimmie Wellington took her time about moving into position, and
her deliberation brought a howl of wrath from the robber: "Get into
that line, you!"

Mrs. Wellington whirled on him: "How dare you, you brute?" And she
turned up her nose at the gun.

The anxious conductor intervened: "Better obey, madame; he's an ugly
lad."

"I don't mind being robbed," said Mrs. Jimmie, "but I won't endure
rudeness."

The robber shook his head in despair, and he tried to wither her with
sarcasm: "Pardong, mamselly, would you be so kind and condescendin' as
to step into that there car before I blow your husband's gol-blame
head off."

This brought her to terms. She hastened to her place, but put out a
restraining hand on Jimmie, who needed no restraint. "Certainly, to
save my dear husband. Don't strike him, Jimmie!"

Then each man stuck one revolver into its convenient holster, and,
covering the passengers with the other, proceeded to frisk away
valuables with a speed and agility that would have looked prettier if
those impatient-looking muzzles had not pointed here, there and
everywhere with such venomous threats.

And so they worked from each end of the car toward the middle. Their
hands ran swiftly over bodies with a loathsome familiarity that could
only be resented, not revenged. Their hands dived into pockets, and
up sleeves, and into women's hair, everywhere that a jewel or a bill
might be secreted. And always a rough growl or a swing of the revolver
silenced any protest.

Their heinous fingers had hardly begun to ply, when the solemn
stillness was broken by a chuckle and low hoot of laughter, a darkey's
unctuous laughter. At such a place it was more shocking than at a
funeral.

"What ails you?" was the nearest robber's demand.

The porter tried to wipe his streaming eyes without lowering his
hands, as he chuckled on: "I--I--just thought of sumpum funny."

"Funny!" was the universal groan.

"I was just thinking," the porter snickered, "what mighty poor
pickings you-all are goin' to git out of me. Whilst if you had 'a'
waited till I got to 'Frisco, I'd jest nachelly been oozin' money."

The robber relieved him of a few dimes and quarters and ordered him to
turn round, but the black face whirled back as he heard from the other
end of the car Wedgewood's indignant complaint: "I say, this is an
outrage!"

"Ah, close your trap and turn round, or I'll----"

The porter's smile died away. "Good Lawd," he sighed, "they're goin'
to skin that British lion! And I just wore myself out on him."

The far-reaching effect of the whole procedure was just beginning to
dawn on the porter. This little run on the bank meant a period of
financial stringency for him. He watched the hurrying hands a moment
or two, then his wrath rose to terrible proportions:

"Look here, man," he shouted at the robber, "ain't you-all goin' to
leave these here passengers nothin' a tall?"

"Not on purpose, nigger."

"No small change, or nothin'?"

"Nary a red."

"Then, passengers," the porter proclaimed, while the robber watched
him in amazement; "then, passengers, I want to give you-all fair
warnin' heah and now: No tips, no whisk-broom!"

Perhaps because their hearts were already overflowing with distress,
the passengers endured this appalling threat without comment, and when
there was a commotion at the other end of the line, all eyes rolled
that way.

Mr. Baumann was making an effort to take his leave, with great
politeness.

"Excoose, pleass. I vant to get by, pleass!"

"Get by!" the other robber gasped. "Why, you----"

"But I'm not a passenger," Mr. Baumann urged, with a confidential
smile, "I've been going through the train myself."

"Much obliged! Hand over!" And a rude hand rummaged his pockets. It
was a heart-rending sight.

"Oi oi!" he wailed, "don't you allow no courtesies to the profession?"
And when the inexorable thief continued to pluck his money, his watch,
his scarf-pin, he grew wroth indeed. "Stop, stop, I refuse to pay.
I'll go into benkruptcy foist." But still the larceny continued;
fingers even lifted three cigars from his pockets, two for himself and
a good one for a customer. This loss was grievous, but his wildest
protest was: "Oh, here, my frient, you don't vant my business carts."

"Keep 'em!" growled the thief, and then, glancing up, he saw on the
tender inwards of Mr. Baumann's upheld palms two huge glisteners,
which their owner had turned that way in a misguided effort to conceal
the stones. The robber reached up for them.

"Take 'em. You're velcome!" said Mr. Baumann, with rare presence of
mind. "Those Nevada nearlies looks almost like real."

"Keep 'em," said the robber, as he passed on, and Mr. Baumann almost
swooned with joy, for, as he whispered to Wedgewood a moment later:
"They're really real!"

Now the eye-chain rolled the other way, for Little Jimmie Wellington
was puffing with rage. The other robber, having massaged him
thoroughly, but without success, for his pocketbook, noticed that
Jimmie's left heel was protruding from his left shoe, and made Jimmie
perform the almost incredible feat of standing on one foot, while he
unshod him and took out the hidden wealth.

"There goes our honeymoon, Lucretia," he moaned. But she whispered
proudly: "Never mind, I have my rings to pawn."

"Oh, you have, have you? Well, I'll be your little uncle," the
kneeling robber laughed, as he overheard, and he continued his
outrageous search till he found them, knotted in a handkerchief, under
her hat.

She protested: "You wouldn't leave me in Reno without a diamond, would
you?"

"I wouldn't, eh?" he grunted. "Do you think I'm in this business for
my health?"

And he snatched off two earrings she had forgotten to remove.
Fortunately, they were affixed to her lobes with fasteners.

Mrs. Jimmie was thoroughbred enough not to wince. She simply
commented: "You brutes are almost as bad as the Customs officers at
New York."

And now another touch of light relieved the gloom. Kathleen was next
in line, and she had been forcing her lips into their most attractive
smile, and keeping her eyes winsomely mellow, for the robber's
benefit. Marjorie could not see the smile; she could only see that
Kathleen was next. She whispered to Mallory:

"They'll get the bracelet! They'll get the bracelet!"

And Mallory could have danced with glee. But Kathleen leaned
coquettishly toward the masked stranger, and threw all her art into
her tone as she murmured:

"I'm sure you're too brave to take my things. I've always admired men
with the courage of Claude Duval."

The robber was taken a trifle aback, but he growled: "I don't know the
party you speak of--but cough up!"

"Listen to her," Marjorie whispered in horror; "she's flirting with
the train-robber."

"What won't some women flirt with!" Mallory exclaimed.

The robber studied Kathleen a little more attentively, as he whipped
off her necklace and her rings. She looked good to him, and so
willing, that he muttered: "Say, lady, if you'll give me a kiss, I'll
give you that diamond ring you got on."

"All right!" laughed Kathleen, with triumphant compliance.

"My God!" Mallory groaned, "what won't some women do for a diamond!"

The robber bent close, and was just raising his mask to collect his
ransom, when his confederate glanced his way, and knowing his
susceptible nature, foresaw his intention, and shouted: "Stop it,
Jake. You 'tend strictly to business, or I'll blow your nose off."

"Oh, all right," grumbled the reluctant gallant, as he drew the ring
from her finger. "Sorry, miss, but I can't make the trade," and he
added with an unwonted gentleness: "You can turn round now."

Kathleen was glad to hide the blushes of defeat, but Marjorie was
still more bitterly disappointed. She whispered to Mallory: "He didn't
get the bracelet, after all."



CHAPTER XXXIX

WOLVES IN THE FOLD


Mallory's heart sank to its usual depth, but Marjorie had another of
her inspirations. She startled everybody by suddenly beckoning and
calling: "Excuse me, Mr. Robber. Come here, please."

The curious gallant edged her way, keeping a sharp watch along the
line: "What d'you want?"

Marjorie leaned nearer, and spoke in a low tone with an amiable smile:
"That lady who wanted to kiss you has a bracelet up her sleeve."

The robber stared across his mask, and wondered, but laughed, and
grunted: "Much obliged." Then he went back, and tapped Kathleen on the
shoulder. When she turned round, in the hope that he had reconsidered
his refusal to make the trade, he infuriated her by growling: "Excuse,
me, miss, I overlooked a bet."

He ran his hand along her arm, and found her bracelet, and
accomplished what Mallory had failed in, its removal.

"Don't, don't," cried Kathleen, "it's wished on."

"I wish it off," the villain laughed, and it joined the growing heap
in the feed-bag.

Kathleen, doubly enraged, broke out viciously: "You're a common,
sneaking----"

"Ah, turn round!" the man roared, and she obeyed in silence.

Then he explored Mrs. Whitcomb, but with such small reward that he
said: "Say, you'd oughter have a pocketbook somewheres. Where's it
at?"

Mrs. Whitcomb brushed furiously: "None of your business, you low
brute."

"Perdooce, madame," the scoundrel snorted, "perdooce the purse, or
I'll hunt for it myself."

Mrs. Whitcomb turned away, and after some management of her skirts,
slapped her handbag into the eager palm with a wrathful: "You're no
gentleman, sir!"

"If I was, I'd be in Wall Street," he laughed. "Now you can turn
round." And when she turned, he saw a bit of chain depending from her
back hair. He tugged, and brought away the locket, and with laying the
tress on her shoulder, and proceeded to sound Ashton for hidden
wealth.

And now Mrs. Temple began to sob, as she parted with an old-fashioned
brooch and two old-fashioned rings that had been her little vanities
for the quarter of a century and more. The old clergyman could have
wept with her at the vandalism. He turned on the wretch with a
heartsick appeal:

"Can't you spare those? Didn't you ever have a mother?"

The robber started, his fierce eyes softened, his voice choked, and he
gulped hard as he drew the back of his hand across his eyes.

"Aw, hell," he whimpered, "that ain't fair. If you're goin' to remind
me of me poor old mo-mo-mother----"

But the one called Jake--the Claude Duval who had been prevented from
a display of human sentiment, did not intend to be cheated. He
thundered: "Stop it, Bill. You 'tend strictly to business, or I'll
blow your mush-bowl off. You know your Maw died before you was born."

This reminder sobered the weeping thief at once, and he went back to
work ruthlessly. "Oh, all right, Jake. Sorry, ma'am, but business is
business." And he dumped Mrs. Temple's trinkets into the satchel. It
was too much for the little old lady's little old husband. He fairly
shrieked:

"Young man, you're a damned scoundrel, and the best argument I ever
saw for hell-fire!"

Mrs. Temple's grief changed to horror at such a bolt from the blue:
"Walter!" she gasped, "such language!"

But her husband answered in self-defence: "Even a minister has a right
to swear once in his lifetime."

Mallory almost dropped in his tracks, and Marjorie keeled over on him,
as he gasped: "Good Lord, Doctor Temple, you are a--a minister?"

"Yes, my boy," the old man confessed, glad that the robbers had
relieved him of his guilty secret along with the rest of his private
properties. Mallory looked at the collapsing Marjorie, and groaned:
"And he was in the next berth all this time!"

The unmasking of the old fraud made a second sensation. Mrs. Fosdick
called from far down the aisle: "Dr. Temple, you're not a detective?"

Mrs. Temple shouted back furiously: "How dare you?"

But Mrs. Fosdick was crying to her luscious-eyed mate: "Oh, Arthur,
he's not a detective. Embrace me!"

And they embraced, while the robbers looked on aghast at the sudden
oblivion they had fallen into. They focussed the attention on
themselves again, however, with a ferocious: "Here, hands up!" But
they did not see Mr. and Mrs. Fosdick steal a kiss behind their
upraised arms, for the robber to whose lot Mallory fell was gloating
over his well-filled wallet. Mallory saw it go with fortitude, but
noting a piece of legal paper, he said: "Say, old man, you don't want
that marriage license, do you?"

The robber handled it as if it were hot--as if he had burned his
fingers on some such document once before, and he stuffed it back in
Mallory's pocket. "I should say not. Keep it. Turn round."

Meanwhile the other felon turned up another beautiful pile of bills in
Dr. Temple's pocket. "Not so worse for a parson," he grinned. "You
must be one of them Fifth Avenue sky-shaffures."

And now Mrs. Temple's gentle eyes and voice filled with tears again:
"Oh, don't take that. That's the money for his vacation--after thirty
long years. Please don't take that."

Her appeals seemed always to find the tender spot of this robber's
heart, for he hesitated, and called out: "Shall we overlook the
parson's wad, podner?"

"Take it, and shut up, you mollycoddle!" was the answer he got, and
the vacation funds joined the old gewgaws.

And now everybody had been robbed but Marjorie. She happened to be at
the center of the line, and both men reached her at the same time: "I
seen her first," the first one shouted.

"You did not," the other roared.

"I tell you I did."

"I tell you I did." They glared threateningly at each other, and their
revolvers seemed to meet, like two game cocks, beak to beak.

The porter voiced the general hope, when he sighed: "Oh, Lawd, if
they'd only shoot each other."

This brought the rivals to their evil senses, and they swept the line
with those terrifying muzzles and that heart-stopping yelp: "Hands
up!"

Bill said: "You take the east side of her, and I'll take the west."

"All right."

And they began to snatch away her side-combs, the little gold chain at
her throat, the jewelled pin that Mallory had given her as the first
token of his love.

The young soldier had foreseen this. He had foreseen the wild rage that
would unseat his reason when he saw the dirty hands of thieves laid
rudely on the sacred body of his beloved. But his soldier-schooling
had drilled him to govern his impulses, to play the coward when there
was no hope of successful battle, and to strike only when the moment
was ripe with perfect opportunity.

He had kept telling himself that when the finger of one of these men
touched so much as Marjorie's hem, he would be forced to fling himself
on the profane miscreant. And he kept telling himself that the moment
he did this, the other man would calmly blow a hole through him, and
drop him at Marjorie's feet, while the other passengers shrank away in
terror.

He told himself that, while it might be a fine impulse to leap to her
defence, it was a fool impulse to leap off a precipice and leave
Marjorie alone among strangers, with a dead man and a scandal, as the
only rewards for his impulse. He vowed that he would hold himself in
check, and let the robbers take everything, leaving him only the name
of coward, provided they left him also the power to defend Marjorie
better at another time.

And now that he saw the clumsy-handed thugs rifling his sweetheart's
jewelry, he felt all that he had foreseen, and his head fought almost
in vain against the white fire of his heart. Between them he trembled
like a leaf, and the sweat globed on his forehead.

The worst of it was the shivering terror of Marjorie, and the pitiful
eyes she turned on him. But he clenched his teeth and waited, thinking
fiercely, watching, like a hovering eagle, a chance to swoop.

But the robbers kept glancing this way and that, and one motion would
mean death. They themselves were so overwrought with their own ordeal
and its immediate conclusion, that they would have killed anybody.
Mallory shifted his foot cautiously, and instantly a gun was jabbed
into his stomach, with a snarl: "Don't you move!"

"Who's moving?" Mallory answered, with a poor imitation of a careless
laugh.

And now the man called Bill had reached Marjorie's right hand. He
chortled: "Golly, look at the shiners."

But Jake, who had chosen Marjorie's left hand, roared:

"Say, you cheated. All I get is this measly plain gold band."

"Oh, don't take that!" Marjorie gasped, clenching her hand.

Mallory's heart ached at the thought of this final sacrilege. He had
the license, and the minister at last--and now the fiends were going
to carry off the wedding ring. He controlled himself with a desperate
effort, and stooped to plead: "Say, old man, don't take that. That's
not fair."

"Shut up, both of you," Jake growled, and jabbed him again with the
gun.

He gave the ring a jerk, but Marjorie, in the very face of the weapon,
would not let go. She struggled and tugged, weeping and imploring:
"Oh, don't, don't take that! It's my wedding ring."

"Agh, what do I care!" the ruffian snarled, and wrenched her finger so
viciously that she gave a little cry of pain.

That broke Mallory's heart. With a wild, bellowing, "Damn you!" he
hurled himself at the man, with only his bare hands for weapons.



CHAPTER XL

A HERO IN SPITE OF HIMSELF


Passion sent Mallory into the unequal fight with two armed and
desperate outlaws. But reason had planned the way. He had been
studying the robber all the time, as if the villain were a war-map,
studying his gestures, his way of turning, and how he held the
revolver. He had noted that the man, as he frisked the passengers, did
not keep his finger on the trigger, but on the guard.

Marjorie's little battle threw the desperado off his balance a trifle;
as he recovered, Mallory struck him, and swept him on over against the
back of a seat. At the same instant, Mallory's right hand went like
lightning to the trigger guard, and gripped the fingers in a vise of
steel, while he drove the man's elbow back against his side. Mallory's
left hand meanwhile flung around his enemy's neck, and gave him a
spinning fall that sent his left hand out for balance. It fell across
the back of the seat, and Mallory pinioned it with elbow and knee
before it could escape.

All in the same crowded moment, his left knuckles jolted the man's
chin in air, and so bewildered him that his muscles relaxed enough
for Mallory's right fingers to squirm their way to the trigger, and
aim the gun at the other robber, and finally to get entire control of
it.

The thing had happened in such a flash that the second outlaw could
hardly believe his eyes. The shriek of the astounded passengers, and
the grunt of Mallory's prisoner, as he crashed backward, woke him to
the need for action. He caught his other gun from its holster, and
made ready for a double volley, but there was nothing to aim at.
Mallory was crouched in the seat, and almost perfectly covered by a
human shield.

Still, from force of habit and foolhardy pluck, Bill aimed at
Mallory's right eyebrow, just abaft Jake's right ear, and shouted his
old motto:

"Hands up! you!"

"Hands up yourself!" answered Mallory, and his victim, shuddering at
the fierce look in his comrade's eyes, gasped: "For God's sake, don't
shoot, Bill!"

Even then the fellow stood his ground, and debated the issue, till
Mallory threw such ringing determination into one last: "Hands up, or
by God, I'll fire!" that he caved in, lifted his fingers from the
triggers, turned the guns up, and slowly raised both hands above his
head.

A profound "Ah!" of relief soughed through the car, and Mallory, still
keeping his eye on Bill, got down cautiously from the seat. The
moment he released Jake's left hand, it darted to the holster where
his second gun was waiting. But before he could clutch the butt of it,
Mallory jabbed the muzzle of his own revolver in the man's back, and
growled: "Put 'em up!" And the robber's left hand joined the right in
air, while Mallory's left hand lifted the revolver, and took
possession of it.

Mallory stood for a moment, breathing hard and a little incredulous at
his own swift, sweet triumph. Then he made an effort to speak as if
this sort of thing were quite common with him, as if he overpowered a
pair of outlaws every morning before breakfast, but his voice cracked
as he said, in a drawing-room tone:

"Dr. Temple, would you mind relieving that man of those guns?"

Dr. Temple was so set up by this distinction that he answered: "Not by
a----"

"Walter!" Mrs. Temple checked him, before he could utter the beautiful
word, and Dr. Temple looked at her almost reproachfully, as he sighed:
"Golly, I should like to swear just once more."

Then he reached up and disarmed the man who had taken his wallet and
his wife's keepsakes. But the doctor was not half so happy over the
recovery of his property as over the unbelievable luxury of finding
himself taking two revolvers away from a masked train-robber.

American children breathe in this desperado romance with their
earliest traditions, and Dr. Temple felt all his boyhood zest surge
back with a boy's tremendous rapture in a deed of derring-do. And now
nothing could check his swagger, as he said to Mallory:

"What shall we do with these dam-ned sinners?"

He felt like apologizing for the clerical relapse into a pulpitism,
but Mallory answered briskly: "We'd better take them into the smoking
room. They scare the ladies. But first, will the conductor take those
bags and distribute the contents to their rightful owners?"

The conductor was proud to act as lieutenant to this Lieutenant, and
he quickly relieved the robbers of their loot-kits.

Mallory smiled. "Don't give anybody my things," and then he jabbed his
robber with one of the revolvers, and commanded: "Forward, march!"

The little triumphal procession moved off, with Bill in the lead,
followed by Dr. Temple, looking like a whole field battery, followed
by Jake, followed by Mallory, followed by the porter and as many of
the other passengers as could crowd into the smoking room.

The rest went after those opulent feed-bags.



CHAPTER XLI

CLICKETY-CLICKETY-CLICKETY


Marjorie, as the supposed wife of the rescuing angel, was permitted
first search, and the first thing she hunted for was a certain gold
bracelet that was none of hers. She found it and seized it with a
prayer of thanks, and concealed it among her own things.

Mrs. Temple gave her a guilty start, by speaking across a barrier:

"Mrs. Mallory, your husband is the bravest man on earth."

"Oh, I know he is," Marjorie beamed, and added with a spasm of
conscience: "but he isn't my husband!"

Mrs. Temple gasped in horror, but Marjorie dragged her close, and
poured out the whole story, while the other passengers recovered their
properties with as much joy as if they were all new gifts found on a
bush.

Meanwhile, under Mallory's guidance, the porter fastened the outlaws
together back to back with the straps of their own feed-bags. The
porter was rejoicing that his harvest of tips was not blighted after
all.

Mallory completed his bliss, by giving him Dr. Temple's brace of guns,
and establishing him as jailer, with a warning: "Now, porter, don't
take your eye off 'em."

"Lordy, I won't bat an eyelid."

"If either of these lads coughs, put a hole through both of 'em."

The porter chuckled: "My fingers is just a-itchin' fer them lovin'
triggers."

And now Mr. Baumann, having scrambled back his possessions, hastened
into the smoking room, and regarded the two hangdog culprits with
magnificent generosity; he forgave them their treatment. In fact, he
went so far as to say: "You gents vill be gettin' off at Reno, yes?
You'll be needing a good firm of lawyers. Don't forget us. Baumann"
(he put a card in Bill's hat) "and Blumen" (he put a card in Jake's
hat). "Avoid substitoots."

Mallory pocketed two of the captured revolvers, lest a need might
arise suddenly again. As he hurried down the aisle, he was received
with cheers. The passengers gave him an ovation, but he only smiled
timidly, and made haste to Marjorie's side.

She regarded him with such idolatry that he almost regretted his deed.
But this mood soon passed in her excitement, and in a moment she was
surreptitiously showing him the bracelet. He became an accessory after
the fact, and shared her guilt, for when she groaned with a sudden
droop: "She'll get it back!" he grimly answered, "Oh, no she won't!"
hoisted the window, and flung the bracelet into a little pool by the
side of the track, with a farewell: "Good-bye, trouble!"

As he drew his head in, a side glance showed him that up near the
engine a third train-robber held the miserably weary train crew in
line.

He found the conductor just about to pull the bell-rope, to proceed.
The conductor had forgotten all about the rest of the staff. Mallory
took him aside, and told him the situation, then turned to Marjorie,
said: "Excuse me a minute," and hurried forward. The conductor
followed Mallory through the train into the baggage coach.

The first news the third outlaw had of the counter-revolution
occurring in the sleeping car was a mysterious bullet that flicked the
dust near his heel, and a sonorous shout of "Hands up!" As he whirled
in amaze, he saw two revolvers aimed point blank at him from behind a
trunk. He hoisted his guns without parley, and the train crew trussed
him up in short order.

Mallory ran back to Marjorie, and the conductor followed more slowly,
reassuring the passengers in the other cars, and making certain that
the train was ready to move on its way.

Mallory went straight to Dr. Temple, with a burning demand:

"You dear old fraud, will you marry me?"

Dr. Temple laughed and nodded. Marjorie and Mrs. Temple had been
telling him the story of the prolonged elopement, and he was eager to
atone for his own deception, by putting an end to their misery.

"Just wait one moment," he said, and as a final proof of affection, he
unbuttoned his collar and put it on backwards. Mrs. Temple brought out
the discarded bib, and he donned it meekly. The transformation
explained many a mystery the old man had enmeshed himself in.

Even as he made ready for the ceremony, the conductor appeared, looked
him over, grinned, and reached for the bell-cord, with a cheerful:
"All aboard!"

Mallory had a sort of superstitious dread, not entirely unfounded on
experience, that if the train got under way again, it would run into
some new obstacle to his marriage. He turned to the conductor:

"Say, old man, just hold the train till after my wedding, won't you?"

It was not much to ask in return for his services, but the conductor
was tired of being second in command. He growled:

"Not a minute. We're 'way behind time."

"You might wait till I'm married," Mallory pleaded.

"Not on your life!" the conductor answered, and he pulled the
bell-rope twice; in the distance, the whistle answered twice.

Mallory's temper flared again. He cried: "This train doesn't go
another step till I'm married!" He reached up and pulled the bell-rope
once; in the distance the whistle sounded once.

This was high treason, and the conductor advanced on him
threateningly, as he seized the cord once more. "You touch that rope
again, and I'll----"

"Oh, no, you won't," said Mallory, as he whisked a revolver from his
right pocket and jammed it into the conductor's watch-pocket. The
conductor came to attention.

Then Mallory, standing with his right hand on military duty, put out
his left hand, and gave the word: "Now, parson."

He smiled still more as he heard Kathleen's voice wailing: "But I
can't find my bracelet. Where's my bracelet?"

"Silence! Silence!" Dr. Temple commanded, and then: "Join hands, my
children."

Marjorie shifted Snoozleums to her left arm, put her right hand into
Mallory's, and Dr. Temple, standing between them, began to drone the
ritual. Everybody said they made a right pretty picture.

When the old clergyman had done his work, the young husband-at-last
graciously rescinded military law, recalled the artillery from the
conductor's very midst, and remembering Manila, smiled:

"You may fire when ready, conductor."

The conductor's rage had cooled, and he slapped the bridegroom on the
back with one hand, as he pulled the cord with the other. The train
began to creak and tug and shift. The ding-dong of the bell floated
murmurously back as from a lofty steeple, and the clickety-click,
click-clickety-click quickened and softened into a pleasant gossip, as
the speed grew, and the way was so smooth for the wheels that they
seemed to be spinning on rails of velvet.


THE END





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