eBooks Cube
 
CHAPTER VIII

AND MR. MOODY INDIGESTION

Mr. Moody took indigestion that night--not but that he always had
it, but this was worse--and Mrs. Moody came to my room about two
o'clock and knocked at the door.

"You'd better come," she said. "There's no doctor, and he's
awful bad. Blames you, too; he says you made him take a salt
rub."

"My land," I snapped, trying to find my bedroom slippers, "I
didn't make him take clam chowder for supper, and that's what's
the matter with him. He's going on a strained rice diet, that's
what he's going to do. I've got to have my sleep."

She was waiting in the hall in her kimono, and holding a candle.
Anybody could see she'd been crying. As she often said to me, of
course she was grateful that Mr. Moody didn't drink--no one knew
his virtues better than she did. But her sister married
a man who went on a terrible bat twice a year, and all the rest
of the time he was humble and affable trying to make up for it.
And sometimes she thought if Mr. Moody would only take a little
whisky when he had these attacks--! I'd rather be the wife of a
cheerful drunkard any time than have to live with a cantankerous
saint. Miss Cobb and I had had many a fight over it, but at that
time there wasn't much likelihood of either of us being called on
to choose.

Well, we went down to Mr. Moody's room, and he was sitting up in
bed with his knees drawn up to his chin and a hot-water bottle
held to him.

"Look at your work, woman," he said to me when I opened the door.

"I'm dying!"

"You look sick," I said, going over to the bed. It never does to
cross them when they get to the water-bottle stage. "The
pharmacy clerk's gone to a dance over at Trimble's, but I guess I
can find you some whisky."

"Do have some whisky, George," begged Mrs. Moody, remembering her
brother-in-law.

"I never touch the stuff and you both know it," he snarled. He
had a fresh pain just then and stopped, clutching up the
bottle. "Besides," he finished, when it was over, "I haven't got
any whisky."

Well, to make a long story short, we got him to agree to some
whisky from the pharmacy, with a drop of peppermint in it, if he
could wash it down with spring water so it wouldn't do him any
harm.

"There isn't any spring water in the house," I said, losing my
temper a little, "and I'm not going out there in my bedroom
slippers, Mr. Moody. I don't see why your eating what you
shouldn't needs to give me pneumonia."

Mrs. Moody was standing beside the bed, and I saw her double chin
begin to work. If you have ever seen a fat woman, in a short red
kimono holding a candle by, a bed, and crying, you know how
helpless she looks.

"Don't go, Minnie," she sniffled. "It would be too awful. If
you are afraid you could take the poker."

"I'm not going!" I declared firmly. "It's--it's dratted idiocy,
that's all. Plain water would do well enough. There's a lot of
people think whisky is poison with water, anyhow. Where's the
pitcher?"

Oh, yes, I went. I put on some stockings of Mrs. Moody's and
a petticoat and a shawl and started. It was when I was in the
pharmacy looking for the peppermint that I first noticed my joint
again. A joint like that's a blessing or a curse, the way you
look at it.

I found the peppermint and some whisky and put them on the
stairs. Then I took my pitcher and lantern and started for the
spring-house. It was still snowing, and part of the time Mrs.
Moody's stockings were up to their knees. The wind was blowing
hard, and when I rounded the corner of the house my lantern went
out. I stood there in the storm, with the shawl flapping,
thanking heaven I was a single woman, and about ready to go back
and tell Mr. Moody what I thought of him when I looked toward the
spring-house.

At first I thought it was afire, then I saw that the light was
coming from the windows. Somebody was inside, with a big fire
and all the lights going.

I'd had tramps sleep all night in the spring-house before, and
once they left a card by the spring: "Water, water everywhere
and not a drop to drink!" So I started out through the snow on a
half run. By the bridge over Hope Springs Creek I slipped
and fell, and I heard the pitcher smash to bits on the ice
below. But as soon as I could move I went on again. That
spring-house had been my home for a good many years, and the
tramp didn't live who could spend the night there if I knew it.

I realized then that I should have taken the poker. I went over
cautiously to one of the windows, wading in deep snow to get
there--and if you have ever done that in a pair of bedroom
slippers you can realize the state of my mind--and looked in.

There were three chairs drawn up in a row in front of the fire,
with my bearskin hearth-rug on them to make a couch, and my
shepherd's plaid shawl folded at one end for a pillow. And
stretched on that with her long sealskin coat laid over her was
Dorothy Jennings, Miss Patty's younger sister! She was alone, as
far as I could see, and she was leaning on her elbow with her
cheek in her hand, staring at the fire. Just then the door into
the pantry opened and out came Mr. Dick himself.

"Were you calling, honey?" he said, coming over and looking down
at her.

"You were such a long time!" says she, glancing up under her
lashes at him. "I--I was lonely!"

"Bless you," says Mr. Dick, stooping over her. "What did I ever
do without you?"

I could have told her a few things he did, but by that time it
was coming over me pretty strong that here was the real Dicky
Carter and that I had an extra one on my hands. The minute I
looked at this one I knew that nobody but a blind man would
mistake one for the other, and Mr. Thoburn wasn't blind. I tell
you I stood out in that snow-bank and perspired!

When I looked again Mr. Dick was on his knees by the row of
chairs, and Miss Dorothy--Mrs. Dicky, of course--was running her
fingers through his hair.

"Minnie used to keep apples and things in the pantry," he said,
"but she must be growing stingy in her old age; there's not a
bite there."

"I'm not so very hungry when I have you!" cooed Mrs. Dicky.

"But you can't eat me." He brought her hand down from his hair--
I may be stingy in my old age, but I've learned a few things, and
one is that a man feels like a fool with his hair rumpled, and I
can tell the degree of a woman's experience by the way she
lets his top hair alone--and pretended to bite it, her hand, of
course. "Although I could eat you," he said. "I'd like to take
a bite out of your throat right there."

Well, it was no place for me unless they knew I was around. I
waded around to the door and walked in, and there was a grand
upsetting of the sealskin coat and my shepherd's plaid shawl.
Mr. Dick jumped to his feet and Mrs. Dick sat bolt upright and
stared at me over the backs of the chairs.

"Minnie!" cried Mr. Dick. "As I'm a married man, it's Minnie
herself; Minnie, the guardian angel! The spirit of the place!
Dorothy, don't you remember Minnie?"

She came toward me with her hand out. She was a pretty little
thing, not so beautiful as Miss Patty, but with a nice way about
her.

"I'm awfully glad to see you again," she said. "Of course I
remember--why you are hardly dressed at all! You must be
frozen!"

I went over to the fire and emptied my bedroom slippers of snow.
Then I sat down and looked at them both.

"Frozen!" repeated I; "I'm in a hot sweat. If you two
children meant to come, why in creation didn't you come in time?"

"We did," replied Mr. Dick, promptly. "We crawled under the wire
fence into the deer park at five minutes to twelve. The will
said `Be on the ground,' and I was--flat on the ground!"

"We've had the police," I said, drearily enough. "I wouldn't
live through another day like yesterday for a hundred dollars."

"We were held up by the snow," he explained. "We got a sleigh to
come over in, but we walked up the hill and came here. I don't
mind saying that my wife's people don't know about this yet, and
we're going to lay low until we've cooked up some sort of a
scheme to tell them." Then he came over and put his hand on my
shoulder.

"Poor old Minnie!" he said; "honest, I'm sorry. I've been a hard
child to raise, haven't I? But that's all over, Minnie. I've
got an incentive now, and it's `steady, old boy,' for me from
now. You and I will run the place and run it right."

"I don't want to!" I retorted, holding my bedroom slippers to
steam before the fire. "I'm going to buy out Timmon's candy
store and live a quiet life, Mr. Dick. This place is making me
old."

"Nonsense! We're going to work together, and we'll make this the
busiest spot in seven counties. Dorothy and I have got it all
planned out and we've got some corking good ideas." He put his
hands in his pockets and strutted up and down. "It's the day of
advertising, you know, Minnie," he said. "You've got to have the
goods, and then you've got to let people know you've got the
goods. What would you say to a shooting-gallery in the basement,
under the reading-room?"

"Fine!" I said, with sarcasm, turning my slippers. "If things
got too quiet that would wake them up a bit, and we could have a
balloon ascension on Saturdays!"

"Not an ascension," said he, with my bitterness going right over
his head. "Nothing sensational, Minnie. That's the way with
women; they're always theatrical. But what's the matter with a
captive balloon, and letting fresh-air cranks sleep in a big
basket bed--say, at five hundred feet? Or a thousand--a thousand
would be better. The air's purer."

"With a net below," says I, "in case they should turn over and
fall out of bed! It's funny nobody ever thought of it before!"

"Isn't it?" exclaimed Mrs. Dick. "And we've all sorts of ideas.
Dick--Mr. Carter has learned of a brand new cocktail for the
men--"

"A lulu!" he broke in.

"And I'm going around to read to the old ladies and hold their
hands--"

"You'll have to chloroform them first," I put in. "Perhaps it
would be better to give the women the cocktail and hold the men's
hands."

"Oh, if you're going to be funny!" Mr. Dick said savagely, "we'll
not tell you any more. I've been counting on you, Minnie.
You've been here so long. You know," he said to his wife, "when
I was a little shaver I thought Minnie had webbed-feet--she was
always on the bank, like a duck. You ARE a duck, Minnie," he
says to me; "a nice red-headed duck! Now don't be quirky and
spoil everything."

I couldn't be light-hearted to save my life.

"Your sister's been wild all day," I told Mrs. Dick. "She got
your letter to-day--yesterday--but I don't think she's told your
father yet."

"What!" she screeched, and caught at the mantelpiece to hold
herself. "Not Pat!" she said, horrified, "and father! Here!"

Well, I listened while they told me. They hadn't had the
faintest idea that Mr. Jennings and Miss Patty were there at the
sanatorium. The girl had been making a round of visits in the
Christmas holidays, and instead of going back to school she'd
sent a forged excuse and got a month off--she hadn't had any
letters, of course. The plan had been not to tell anybody but
her sister until Mr. Dick had made good at the sanatorium.

"The idea was this, Minnie," said Mr. Dick. "Old--I mean Mr.
Jennings is--is not well; he has a chronic indisposition--"

"Disposition, I call it," put in Mr. Jennings' daughter.

"And he's apt to regard my running away with Dorothy when I
haven't a penny as more of an embezzlement than an elopement."

"Fiddle!" exclaimed Mrs. Dick. "I asked you to marry me, and now
they're here and have to spoil it all."

The thought of her father and his disposition suddenly
overpowered her and she put her yellow head on the back of a
chair and began to cry.

"I--I can't tell him!" she sobbed. "I wrote to Pat,--why doesn't
Pat tell him? I'm going back to school."

"You'll do nothing of the sort. You're a married woman now, and
where I go you go. My country is your country, and my sanatorium
is your sanatorium." He was in a great rage.

But she got up and began trying to pull on her fur coat, and her
jaw was set. She looked like her father for a minute.

"Where are you going?" he asked, looking scared.

"Anywhere. I'll go down to the station and take the first train,
it doesn't matter where to." She picked up her muff, but he went
over and stood against the door.

"Not a step without me!" he declared. "I'll go with you, of
course; you know that. I'm not afraid of your father: I'd as
soon as not go in and wake him now and tell him the whole thing--
that you've married a chap who isn't worth the butter on his
bread, who can't buy you kid gloves--"

"But you will, as soon as the sanatorium succeeds!" she put
in bravely. She put down her muff. "Don't tell him to-night,
anyhow. Maybe Pat will think of some way to break it to him.
She can do a lot with father."

"I hope she can think of some way to break another Richard Carter
to the people in the house," I said tartly.

"Another Richard Carter!" they said together, and then I told
them about how we had waited and got desperate, and how we'd
brought in Mr. Pierce at the last minute and that he was asleep
now at the house. They roared. To save my life I couldn't see
that it was funny. But when I came to the part about Thoburn
being there, and his having had a good look at Mr. Pierce, and
that he was waiting around with his jaws open to snap up the
place when it fell under the hammer, Mr. Dick stopped laughing
and looked serious.

"Lord deliver us from our friends!" he said. "Between you and
Sam, you've got things in a lovely mess, Minnie. What are you
going to do about it now?"

"It's possible we can get by Thoburn," I said. "You can slip in
to-night, we can get Mr. Pierce out--Lord knows he'll be glad
to go--and Miss Dorothy can go back to school. Then, later, when
you've got things running and are making good--"

"I'm not going back to school," she declared, "but I'll go away;
I'll not stand in your way, Dicky." She took two steps toward
the door and waited for him to stop her.

"Nonsense, Minnie," he exclaimed angrily and put his arm around
her, "I won't be separated from my wife. You got me into this
scrape, and--"

"I didn't marry you!" I retorted. "And I'm not responsible for
your father-in-law's disposition."

"You'll have to help us out," he finished.

"What shall I do? Murder Mr. Jennings?" I asked bitterly. "If
you expect me to suggest that you both go to the house, and your
wife can hide in your rooms--"

"Why not?" asked Mr. Dick.

Well, I sat down again and explained patiently that it would get
out among the servants and cause a scandal, and that even if it
didn't I wasn't going to have any more deception: I had enough
already. And after a while they saw it as I did, and agreed to
wait and see Miss Patty before they decided. They wanted to
have her wakened at once, but I refused, although I agreed to
bring her out first thing in the morning.

"But you can't stay here," I said. "There'll be Miss Cobb at
nine o'clock, and the man comes to light the fire at eight."

"We could go to the old shelter-house on the golf links,"
suggested Mr. Dick, looking me square in the eye. (I took the
hint, and Mrs. Dicky never knew he had been hidden there before.)

"Nobody ever goes near it in winter." So I put on my slippers
again and we started through the snow across the golf links, Mr.
Dick carrying a bundle of firewood, and I leading the way with my
lantern. Twice I went into a drift to my waist, and once a
rabbit bunted into me head on, and would have scared me into a
chill if I hadn't been shaking already. The two behind me were
cheerful enough. Mr. Dick pointed out the general direction of
the deer park which hides the shelter-house from the sanatorium,
and if you'll believe it, with snow so thick I had to scrape it
off the lantern every minute or so, those children planned to
give something called A Midsummer Night's Dream in the deer
park among the trees in the spring, to entertain the
patients.

"I wish to heaven I'd wake up and find all THIS a dream," I
called back over my shoulder. But they were busy with costumes
and getting some folks they knew from town to take the different
parts and they never even heard me. The last few yards they
snowballed each other and me. I tell you I felt a hundred years
old.

We got into the shelter-house by my crawling through a window,
and when we had lighted the fire and hung up the lantern, it
didn't seem so bad. The place had been closed since summer, and
it seemed colder than outside, but those two did the barn dance
then and there. There were two rooms, and Mr. Dick had always
used the back one to hide in. It's a good thing Mrs. Dick was
not a suspicious person. Many a woman would have wondered when
she saw him lift a board in the floor and take out a rusty tin
basin, a cake of soap, a moldy towel, a can of sardines, a tooth-
brush and a rubber carriage robe to lay over the rafters under
the hole in the roof. But it's been my experience that the first
few days of married life women are blind because they want to
be and after that because they have to be.

It was about four when I left them, sitting on a soap box in
front of the fire toasting sardines on the end of Mr. Dick's
walking-stick. Mrs. Dick made me put on her sealskin coat, and I
took the lantern, leaving them in the firelight. They'd gone
back to the captive balloon idea and were wondering if they
couldn't get it copyrighted!

I took a short cut home, crawling through the barbed-wire fence
and going through the deer park. I was too tired and cold to
think. I stumbled down the hill to the house, and just before I
got to the corner I heard voices, and the shuffling of feet
through the snow. The next instant a lantern came around the
corner of the house. Mr. Thoburn was carrying it, and behind him
were the bishop, Mike the bath man, and Mr. Pierce.

"It's like that man Moody," the bishop was saying angrily, "to
send the girl--"

"Piffle !" snarled Mr. Thoburn. "If ever a woman was able to
take care of herself--" And then they saw me, and they all
stopped and stared.

"Good gracious, girl!" said the bishop, with his dressing-
gown blowing out straight behind him in the wind. "We thought
you'd been buried in a drift!"

"I don't see why!" I retorted defiantly. "Can't I go out to my
own spring-house without having a posse after me to bring me
back?"

"Ordinarily," said Mr. Thoburn, with his snaky eyes on me, "I
think I may say that you might go almost anywhere without my
turning out to recover you. But Mrs. Moody is having hysterics."

Mrs. Moody! I'd forgotten the Moodys!

"She is convinced that you have drowned yourself, head down, in
the spring," Mr. Pierce said in his pleasant way. "You've been
gone two hours, you know."

He took my arm and turned me toward the house. I was dazed.

"In answer to your urgent inquiry," Mr. Thoburn called after me,
disagreeably, "Mr. Moody has not died. He is asleep. But, by
the way, where's the spring water?"

I didn't answer him; I couldn't. We went into the house; Mrs.
Moody and Miss Cobb were sitting on the stairs. Mrs. Moody had
been crying, and Miss Cobb was feeding her the whisky I had
left, with a teaspoon. She had had a half tumblerful already and
was quite maudlin. She ran to me and put her arms around me.

"I thought I was a murderess!" she cried. "Oh, the thought!
Blood on my soul! Why, Minnie Waters, wherever did you get that
sealskin coat!"





Where There's A Will by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Category:
General Fiction

Mystery and detective stories
Nabou.com: the big site