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- Flappers and Philosophers - 2/46 -
many more. Less than a month ago, one month, Ardita, he was involved in a notorious affair with that red-haired woman, Mimi Merril; promised to give her the diamond bracelet that the Czar of Russia gave his mother. You know--you read the papers."
"Thrilling scandals by an anxious uncle," yawned Ardita. "Have it filmed. Wicked clubman making eyes at virtuous flapper. Virtuous flapper conclusively vamped by his lurid past. Plans to meet him at Palm Beach. Foiled by anxious uncle."
"Will you tell me why the devil you want to marry him?"
"I'm sure I couldn't say," said Audits shortly. "Maybe because he's the only man I know, good or bad, who has an imagination and the courage of his convictions. Maybe it's to get away from the young fools that spend their vacuous hours pursuing me around the country. But as for the famous Russian bracelet, you can set your mind at rest on that score. He's going to give it to me at Palm Beach--if you'll show a little intelligence."
"How about the--red-haired woman?"
"He hasn't seen her for six months," she said angrily. "Don't you suppose I have enough pride to see to that? Don't you know by this time that I can do any darn thing with any darn man I want to?"
She put her chin in the air like the statue of France Aroused, and then spoiled the pose somewhat by raising the lemon for action.
"Is it the Russian bracelet that fascinates you?"
"No, I'm merely trying to give you the sort of argument that would appeal to your intelligence. And I wish you'd go 'way," she said, her temper rising again. "You know I never change my mind. You've been boring me for three days until I'm about to go crazy. I won't go ashore! Won't! Do you hear? Won't!"
"Very well," he said, "and you won't go to Palm Beach either. Of all the selfish, spoiled, uncontrolled disagreeable, impossible girl I have---"
Splush! The half-lemon caught him in the neck. Simultaneously came a hail from over the side.
"The launch is ready, Mr. Farnam."
Too full of words and rage to speak, Mr. Farnam cast one utterly condemning glance at his niece and, turning, ran swiftly down the ladder.
Five o'clock robed down from the sun and plumped soundlessly into the sea. The golden collar widened into a glittering island; and a faint breeze that had been playing with the edges of the awning and swaying one of the dangling blue slippers became suddenly freighted with song. It was a chorus of men in close harmony and in perfect rhythm to an accompanying sound of oars dealing the blue writers. Ardita lifted her head and listened.
"Carrots and Peas, Beans on their knees, Pigs in the seas, Lucky fellows! Blow us a breeze, Blow us a breeze, Blow us a breeze, With your bellows."
Ardita's brow wrinkled in astonishment. Sitting very still she listened eagerly as the chorus took up a second verse.
"Onions and beans, Marshalls and Deans, Goldbergs and Greens And Costellos. Blow us a breeze, Blow us a breeze, Blow us a breeze, With your bellows."
With an exclamation she tossed her book to the desk, where it sprawled at a straddle, and hurried to the rail. Fifty feet away a large rowboat was approaching containing seven men, six of them rowing and one standing up in the stern keeping time to their song with an orchestra leader's baton.
"Oysters and Rocks, Sawdust and socks, Who could make clocks Out of cellos?---"
The leader's eyes suddenly rested on Ardita, who was leaning over the rail spellbound with curiosity. He made a quick movement with his baton and the singing instantly ceased. She saw that he was the only white man in the boat--the six rowers were negroes.
"Narcissus ahoy!" he called politely.
What's the idea of all the discord?" demanded Ardita cheerfully. "Is this the varsity crew from the county nut farm?"
By this time the boat was scraping the side of the yacht and a great bulking negro in the bow turned round and grasped the ladder. Thereupon the leader left his position in the stern and before Ardita had realized his intention he ran up the ladder and stood breathless before her on the deck.
"The women and children will be spared!" he said briskly. "All crying babies will be immediately drowned and all males put in double irons!" Digging her hands excitedly down into the pockets of her dress Ardita stared at him, speechless with astonishment. He was a young man with a scornful mouth and the bright blue eyes of a healthy baby set in a dark sensitive face. His hair was pitch black, damp and curly--the hair of a Grecian statue gone brunette. He was trimly built, trimly dressed, and graceful as an agile quarter-back.
"Well, I'll be a son of a gun!" she said dazedly.
They eyed each other coolly.
"Do you surrender the ship?"
"Is this an outburst of wit? " demanded Ardita. "Are you an idiot--or just being initiated to some fraternity?"
"I asked you if you surrendered the ship."
"I thought the country was dry," said Ardita disdainfully. "Have you been drinking finger-nail enamel? You better get off this yacht!"
"What?" the young man's voice expressed incredulity.
"Get off the yacht! You heard me!"
He looked at her for a moment as if considering what she had said.
"No" said his scornful mouth slowly; "No, I won't get off the yacht. You can get off if you wish."
Going to the rail be gave a curt command and immediately the crew of the rowboat scrambled up the ladder and ranged themselves in line before him, a coal-black and burly darky at one end and a miniature mulatto of four feet nine at to other. They seemed to be uniformly dressed in some sort of blue costume ornamented with dust, mud, and tatters; over the shoulder of each was slung a small, heavy-looking white sack, and under their arms they carried large black cases apparently containing musical instruments.
"'Ten-SHUN!" commanded the young man, snapping his own heels together crisply. "Right DRISS! Front! Step out here, Babe!"
The smallest Negro took a quick step forward and saluted.
"Take command, go down below, catch the crew and tie 'em up--all except the engineer. Bring him up to me. Oh, and pile those bags by the rail there."
Babe saluted again and wheeling about motioned for the five others to gather about him. Then after a short whispered consultation they all filed noiselessly down the companionway.
"Now," said the young man cheerfully to Ardita, who had witnessed this last scene in withering silence, "if you will swear on your honor as a flapper--which probably isn't worth much--that you'll keep that spoiled little mouth of yours tight shut for forty-eight hours, you can row yourself ashore in our rowboat."
"Otherwise you're going to sea in a ship."
With a little sigh as for a crisis well passed, the young man sank into the settee Ardita had lately vacated and stretched his arms lazily. The corners of his mouth relaxed appreciatively as he looked round at the rich striped awning, the polished brass, and the luxurious fittings of the deck. His eye felt on the book, and then on the exhausted lemon.
"Hm," he said, "Stonewall Jackson claimed that lemon-juice cleared his head. Your head feel pretty clear?"
Ardita disdained to answer.
"Because inside of five minutes you'll have to make a clear decision whether it's go or stay."
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