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Thorne Smith.

Out o' luck; Biltmore Oswald very much at sea online

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possible, and now I am actually going to mount one. Great
guns, were women put into the world only to make fools
of men?

Dec. 27th. — I looked upon the horse as a murderer
might look upon his jury. He gazed back at me and
frowned. From that minute we were mortal enemies. I
have never seen such marked hostility in any creature's eyes.

"Good morning," says my fair and slim young friend,
buttoning her gloves as she approached me. "A fine day
for a ride."

"Don't you think it's going to rain?" I asked, wistfully.

"Oh, no," says she. "It will clear up presently."

She took a step toward her horse, but I stopped her.

"Say, don't you think my horse looks sick?" I asked.

"No," says she, "he's well enough."

"I wouldn't like to ride him if he's sick," I replied, at
which point the horse turned around and blew heavily in
my face. I startled back horrified.

"Oh, you'll find him mettlesome enough," she assured
me, "I picked him out myself for you. He's the worst in
the stable."

"My family won't thank you," I muttered.

"There's nothing like a mettlesome horse," she added.

"To shoot," says I, under my breath.

"Well, let's go," says she, all impatience.

"Sure," says I, dropping the bridle with alacrity. "Where
shall we go?"

"Riding, silly," says she, laughing.

That laugh of hers had lost for me much of its fizz. It



OUT O' LUCK 105

had sounded better on the previous evening. Today it vv^as
ghastly.

"Oh," I says, *'I thought you meant to go avt^ay some-
where."

"Well!" says she, stamping her foot.

"Well, w^hat?" says I, a little blankly.

"Well!" she replied.

Still I didn't savvy.

"All right," says she, huffily, "I'll get on myself." And
she did.

"It's more than I can do," says I, looking with great mis-
giving at the murderous beast.

"Do you want me to help you ?" she asks scornfully from
her secure perch.

"I do," says I, with more truth than pride.

"Well, I won't," says she.

I approached the horse warily and he frowned down at
me over his long nose and consequently I de-approached
him. That is, I moved away with as much dignity as pos-
sible under the spell of a great fear.

"Well, well, come on," cried my intrepid Amazon.

"I'd rather sleep with a wildcat than get on that horse,"
I declared.

"Shall I leave you?" demanded the girl.

"Alone with that horse? Never!" I cried, and once
more approached him. He pivoted around head on and
regarded me with his goggle eyes, a trifle crossed.

"My horse has goat blood in him," says I to the girl.
She refused to loosen up with a suggestion. Then suddenly
I had a wise flash. Leading the brute up to the steps of
the verandah I sprang upon him with a prayer to God in
my heart and a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I say I sprang upon this horse, but in truth I didn't. I
only sprang partly upon him. The other part dangled
artistically along the sleepy street of that rural town. Al-
ready my companion had ceased to be my companion. She



io6 OUT O' LUCK

was merely a memory. John Gilpin was a jockey in com-
parison with me. At last she caught up with me.

''What shall I do with my sailor trousers?" I demanded.
"They flap."

"Tuck 'em up," says she, in her horsey voice.

"And show my garters?" I cried.

"Sure," says she.

"Jade," says I, and for the time being further conversa-
tion ceased because of the Pavaloish proclivities of my mount.
At last he began to show his better nature and eventually
became almost reasonable, but never ridable.

"Great stu£F!" said I to the girl, drawing my first faint
breath of relief.

"It's the only thing," she replied.

"For a suicide, yes," I added.

Every bird on every limb, and there were many of both,
seemed to be twittering at i^s. I felt sure they were kid-
ding me. One old crow, who in his misogynistic manner,
held himself aloof from the rest of his tribe, gazed gloom-
ily at me from a distant limb, then flew away, making a
horrid noise.

"Your cheeks are pale," the young lady took the pains
to inform me.

"It affects some athletes that way," I told her, at which
she laughed in a peculiarly irritating way that all women
have and a great deal too many use.

"What's to keep this horse from turning around and
biting my leg?" I asked, suddenly appalled by this terrifying
thought.

"Nothing," says she.

"God!" says L

"Well, come on, then," says she, "let's race."

Protest was in vain. I had no choice. Mine was a
mettlesome horse. There is no denying it. If anyone
ever does I feel sure I will strangle him or her on the
spot. No sooner had my companion's horse set out than
we parted company for the second time that morning.




** 'say, don't you think that my horse looks sick?' " — Page 104




" « , «-.»



LET*S SWAP HORSES,* I CRIED, AS I PASSED HER COMPARATIVELY MILD-
MANNERED mount" — Page log



OUT O' LUCK 109

"Let*s swap horses," I cried, as I passed her comparatively
mild-mannered mount. But her reply was lost to me. For
sheer speed nothing could beat that horse. An automobile
may cover more ground in less time, but not any faster.
The road seemed to curl up behind us and the clouds above
tumbled and collapsed through space. Then, as suddenly
as it had started, it stopped. That is, the horse stopped. I
didn't. I continued a few yards further on my nose. The
horse, apparently satisfied with his sorry achievement, con-
tinued on his mad progress, and I made no attempt to fol-
low him. When he at last disappeared from view I felt
much better and arose from the road. On a nearby fence
I seated myself and prepared to await the arrival of my
fair friend. My knowledge of receiving a sarcastic greet-
ing in no way offset my relief in having got rid of that
terrible horse. At last she appeared.

"Where's your horse?" says she, briefly.

"What horse?" I asked, absently.

"Why, the horse you were riding so badly?" she answers.

"Oh, that horse," says I, brightening up, "why that horse
lost interest in me about fifteen minutes ago. I think he
has some friends down the road."

"Are you interested enough to look for him?" she asks.

"Yes," says I, "with a gun."

As we were a long way from the hotel it was decided
that I should get up behind the girl and that we ride home-
ward in this clubby manner until we reached civilization, at
v/hich point, it was further decided, I was to debark and
make my way to the hotel on foot. A groom was to be
sent out after the horse possessed of the devil.

"It's not necessary to hug me," said the girl, after we
had progressed some distance in this fashion.

"I know," I explained, "but it's a great deal more pleas-
ant."

"You seem to know how to hug a girl a great deal better
than you do how to ride a horse," she replied, caustically.

"I do," said I, "I like it better."



^iio OUT O' LUCK

She made no reply to this, so perhaps she did, too.

"Tell me," she said, after a little while, "was that the
first time you had ever been on a horse?"

"This is the second," I admitted.

"Well, you stayed on him much longer than most of the
men I've taken out," answered this strange creature.

"It was not through preference," I assured her.

"He's the worst horse in seven counties," she continued.
"No one ever fools with him any more — ^stop that at once
and don't do it again!"

But I couldn't stop. I was too grateful. At the spot
decided upon, I dismounted, and looked up at her.

"Will you ride tomorrow?" she asked, with an unusually
arresting smile.

"My dear," I answered, "this is, or was, our last ride
together. I understand Browning better now than I have
ever done before."

"But it's not our last dance?" she continued, turning full
current on her smile.

"No," I replied, limping wearily down the road after
her. And it wasn't. She held me to it that very night in
spite of all the pains and aches that were torturing my
racked body.

Somehow I can't keep from liking that girl. May Polly
forgive me. May she never need to. May she never know.
This is the universal prayer of all men and most women.

"Won't you sit out a dance?" she asked me,

"Dearie," I replied, "I'll stand it with you, but after
this morning's ride I fear my sitting days are over."

Dec. 28th. — It's all up with me now. Polly and mother
arrived this morning. Some old scandal monger, un-
known to me, but to whom I was not unknown, evi-
dently tipped them off about me and my new sweetie.
Polly's first words were sufficient to dispel the hopes to
which I had desperately clung that she was still in ig-
norance.



OUT O' LUCK 111

**Ah," says she, regarding my blank face with battle-
brewing eye, "I see you didn't expect us."

Muttering a few cheerless words, I kissed mother.

"Well?" says Polly.

Then I kissed her, too. She didn't want It. In the
bullying spirit of womanhood, she was merely demanding
her rights. I kissed her quickly, but not quick enough.
The other girl, clad in an extremely fanciful skating cos-
tume, was just passing by. It was horrible. My soul
sweated in every pore. She stopped for merely a moment,
but it was one moment too many.

"Is that the woman?" hissed Polly. Women can hiss.
In spite of all statements to the contrary, I know that it's
possible. I've heard them. This hiss was particularly snak-
ish.

"What woman?'* I mumbled dully.

Polly took me by the arm and led me away.

"We are to be married," says she, and I have never
heard more deadly determination of purpose expressed in
anyone's voice. "We are to be married," she continued, giv-
ing me time to take it in, "one month from today."

"At what time?" I asked, knowing that something was
required of me.

"At 9 o'clock," says Polly.

"Splendid!" says I, in a dead voice. "Ripping!"

(Later) — The storm has broken in all its fury. For
the first time in my life I wish I were at sea. They have
met and practically insulted each other. A barroom fight
is mild in comparison with the sweetness of two contend-
ing women. I managed with a skill bom of desperation
to see the other girl alone. In my wildness I admitted that
I loved her. She told me that she was going to marry me
or break my neck. She could do it, too. Here I am, the
most sat upon sailor in the service, over whom two women
are fighting to see which one will have the pleasure of
making me the most miserable. It is more than I deserve,
perhaps, and at the same time it is more than I require. As



112 OUT O' LUCK

I was sitting on my bed a moment ago, holding my head
in my hands, the other girl came quietly in, slipped me
a small, swift hunk of a kiss and tiptoed out. There were
no words spoken. That is evidently her way of clinching
the bargain, and, by the way, I feel now I think she has
done it. Dinner with Polly and mother is going to be a
crisp affair. Why did I ever leave the sea?

Dec. 29th. — Saved! Providence in the guise of a tele-
gram intervened in my behalf and drew me out of the
vortex of what was rapidly developing into a tragedy. I
am no sounder of heart, but I am farther away from the
scene of the accident. The telegram instructed me to re-
port at once to camp and stand by for the mysterious proc-
ess of releasing! I left them flat. I think I must have
invented this train I'm on. No one knew there was such
a train, but I caught it — sort of wished it into being. I'm
now on my way to New York and from that point to
camp. Behind me in the rapidly receding distance are two
women. They must meet and talk. I fear the worst.
If they ever come to the point of swapping stories, God
help the good name I bear. It might not be right to love
two women at once, but, by gad, it's rational.

Jan. 3rd. — (Back at camp) Not for long am I here, I
hope. Some of my friends have waited so long, however,
to hear their names called out on the release muster that
their characters as well as countenances have utterly
changed. I am slowly cracking under the strain myself.
During the last three days which have elapsed since I ar-
rived in camp I have attended nine different musters with
hope and confidence in my heart, only to have a mighty
crimp thrown into both.

As soon as I struck the station I hurried right up to the
officer and said:

"Here I am, sir, when do I go?" And the things he
said to me made me completely forget both of my bellicose
sweeties. It seems that you don't walk right in and then



D\CKo




"sailors have an unpleasant habit of glaring" — Pagf 11$







AT FIRST 1 THOUGHT THAT HE WAS GETTING INTO COMMUNICATION WITH

MY great-grandfather" — Page ii6



OUT O' LUCK 115

walk right out again. Not at all. The word "stand-by"
has really an actual meaning. It means just that. You
stand-by for hours and you stand-by for days. One man
has lost seventeen pounds in his efforts to hear his name
called.

Jan. 4th. — Still out o' luck. The officer who reads the
muster out roll does not seem to be able to pronounce my
name. I am haggard. This morning we assembled on the
parade ground and listened to the list being read. I had
to be led away when Tim's, Tony's and the Spider's names
were called out all in a row. I am alone now. My ship-
mates have gone. Why speak of the parting? Some one
has made off with my hammock and I am told that no one
can leave the station without turning in his outfit at the
gear hut. A moment ago I caught myself laughing hys-
terically at a tree, then all of a sudden I burst out singing:

My name is Biltmore Oswald, ^.
But the officer, he dont care.

Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. That's
what is happening to me. One cold letter from Polly.
Two warm ones from the girl. As David once said, "Feed
me with apples, I am sick of love." He could have said
less at greater length. I must search for a hammock — I
don't care whose.

Jan. 5th. — It has happened. The first pop out of the
box. Mounting the platform, the officer, a seagoing look-
ing body of a man, called out my name in a loud voice, but
my answer was still louder. So loud, in fact, that when
the echoes of my triumphant "Here, sir!" had died out in
the distance, a profound silence fell upon the camp. One
could have heard the thrice proverbial pin crash to earth.
Sailors have an unpleasant habit of glaring. The eyes of
the multitude were upon me. There was envy in every
eye. Then in a quiet voice the officer repeated my name



ii6 OUT O' LUCK

and I responded with a subdued "Here, sir." He smiled
and told me to fall out.

From that spot, together with my kind, I was taken to
the medical office. Here I was examined. Standing be-
fore the doctor I looked him searchingly in the eyes. What
was he going to do to me? My whole fate remained be-
tween him and a still unstolen hammock.

"Have they looked at your feet?" he snapped out.

"Have who looked at my feet, sir?** I asked.

"The men in the other room,'* he replied.

"I didn't know that the men in the other room wanted
to look at my feet, sir," I answered, humbly.

"They don't," said he, "but they have to."

I returned to the men in the other room.

"I understand that you want to look at my feet," I said,
politely.

"Dear me, yes," said one of them — the funny one, "we're
just crazy to look at your feet. Let's see *em.*'

I showed them my feet. They gazed at them without
any particular show of either interest or admiration, marked
something on a card and sent me back to the doctor. This
good gentleman then began to make passes at my body, all
of which I successfully dodged.

"Stand still, can*t you?" says he. "I want to sound you."

I stood still and was sounded — ^vigorously. Then he be-
gan to listen to me and his ear tickled.

"Don't do that!" he cried, irritably. "Don't fidget.
Don't budge."

Once more I came to rest with a great show of self-con-
trol. Suddenly he stopped and began tapping on the wall.
This was a new game. I didn't know what was expected
of me. At first I thought he might perhaps be a spiritualist
and was getting into communication with my great-grand-
father to find out if there had ever been any sickness in the
family. I relinquished this thought in favor of the Morse
code. He was evidently trying me out on this, and so at
his next tap I took a chance and called out "A."




"* GOOD-BYE, FOGERTY,' SAYS I, *BE GOOD TO YOUR FAMILIES * "—Page 120




NOW 1 MUST HASTEN TO SOW SOME JAZZ-WEEDS"— Pa^tf 120



OUT O' LUCK 119

After this came several more taps and one loud tap which
caused me to answer "C."

He tapped some more and I took a shot in the dark with

"What are you doing?" he cried, giving the wall a re-
sounding bang. "I'm not here to listen to your letters."

"Oh, I thought you were trying me out in the Morse
code," says I.

"No," says he, "I want those guys on the other side to
keep quiet. I can't hear your heart."

With this he bent down and listened vigorously.

"Can't do it," he said at last, "can't hear it. Mustn't let
you out until I hear your heart. Apparently it's not beat-
ing.

H|^ called another doctor over and asked him to listen
to rriy heart. This gentleman listened attentively for a
great while.

"Can't hear a thing," says he at last.

Both of the doctors looked at me and both muttered
"Strange," and one of them asked me if I wanted a chair.
The noise in the other rooms was growing louder all the
time. Running to the door I thrust my head into the room
and shouted:

"For God's sake, men, pipe down a minute or I'll have to
re-enlist!"

The silence of amazement fell upon the room and I
returned to the doctors.

"Now listen," I said, "and listen good."

"Ah," said the doctor, "I hear it. There it goes. Splen-
did! You pass."

And I did — quickly.

(Later) — ^The pay office was long, but easy. I received
forty-five seeds. This so delighted me that I tried to shake
hands with the Paymaster, but he shut the window on my
hand.

I stole a hammock and turned it in. It happened to be my



120 OUT O' LUCK

own hammock. The last man in camp is going to be out of
luck. The station is evidently short just one hammock.

On my way to the gate I met Mr. Fogerty staggering
along in his insolent manner.

"Good-bye, Fogerty," I said, taking him by his funny
old paw, *Tm going now. Be good to your families."

He gazed into my eyes for a moment, glanced at my sea
bag, and took in the situation. He seemed to realize he
was losing his best meal ticket, for his long red tongue
suddenly protruded and he subjected my eye to an affection-
ate side swipe. He then followed me to the gate where I
now am, waiting for a jitney. A sailor I never saw before
just shook my hand vigorously and said, "Good-by, good
luck, God bless you."

"Glad to have met you," I replied, and the simple-hearted
soul beat it down the road with his bag on his shoulder.

Before me lies Polly and the girl. Which shall it be?
I know not. Let the future decide. All I know is that I
am just one jump from a pair of trousers that don't flap at
the ends. Farewell, Fogerty; I shall see you again.

Now I must hasten to sow some jazz- weeds.



THE END



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Online LibraryThorne SmithOut o' luck; Biltmore Oswald very much at sea → online text (page 7 of 7)