By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Speedy in Oz, Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!" etc.
Originally published in the Springfield [Massachusetts] Republican and other newspapers, March 9, 1924.
"Mother," observed the Important Person, absently shaking the ice in the bottom of his tumbler, "mother, you have lovely hair!"
"Same hair she's always had," smiled Aunt Hattie, rising rheumatically and fixing a frosty eye upon her nephew. "First time you've noticed it?"
"O, but it wasn't always gray," retorted Mrs. Eliot, flashing a quick smile across the table. "And--"
"Ever since you were thirty-five!" Belligerently seizing the pudding dish, Aunt Hattie billowed kitchenward. The Important Person considered this a moment in pensive silence; then, muttering something about seeing a man, extricated himself from the family group.
"Now, whatever made him say that?" inquired Aunt Hattie heavily as the front door shut with an emphatic slam.
"What?" Mrs. Eliot had already forgotten the chance remark.
"About your hair. No man notices anything on his own women folks that he hasn't first noticed on some other woman." Aunt Hattie waved the dish towel dramatically. "Take my brother Fred. Did he ever know I had blue eyes till he courted the Jones girl? Certainly not. But as soon as he said to me, 'Hat, your eyes are blue, aren't they?' I knew he was caught by another pair."
"Hattie--don't, don't try to tell me Dick is falling love with a gray head!"
"I'm only telling you what I know--plain facts!"
Dick's pause next morning at the desk of Anna Rae was so long and lively that Pat, his partner in law, regarded him with alarm.
"See here," he cautioned a bit later as they sat closeted in the tiny private office, "you're not going to fall for the colonial dame, are you? Better consult an eye specialist, boy; can't you see her hair is gray?"
Anna Rae, on her part, helped Dick not at all. She never so much as mentioned a single relative who had gone gray at twenty.
One morning, after they had been seen together at the theater and Pat's tongue had been more than usually waggish, there crept into Dicky's voice a manner of certain guardedness which was quickly detected and punished by Anna Rae, who was not altogether unaware of the little byplay behind the glass inclosure. She instantly froze into the perfect and impersonal secretary, and nothing Dick could do would restore the old friendly footing.
Then one sultry noon fate, in the guise of a meddlesome office boy, took the matter in hand. Anna Rae was listlessly typing a long contract when a quick call for a certain paper made her bend over the wire basket on her desk. At the same instant the office boy touched the electric switch at the door. There was an anguished scream that sent Dick flying out of his chair.
The sight that met his eyes completely paralyzed him for an instant, for the electric fan, thrown into action by the switch at the same moment Anna Rae's head bent over the wire basket, had seized in its cruel blades the hair of the only girl in the world. His paralysis gave way with a snap; he slid, leapt--fell--across the room and flung himself upon the switch; then, with a groan, turned around. This was his punishment for being such a cad--but he'd show her that nothing mattered--nothing! Anna Rae, her head fallen forward, upon the desk, lay perfectly quiet now. The fan, still revolving slowly, wound upon itself with jocose little chuckles satiny strands of gray hair. Pat, rigid with horror and round eyed with fright, stared and stared; Dick, his hand still glued to the switch, stared and stared. For Anna Rae was in no wise scalped, though minus every gray hair she owned. A perfect riot of bobbed brown curls tumbled about her neck and caressed her pale little face.
"Say, you!" Dick's voice, hoarse with relief, surprise, and an emotion he could no longer control, broke the tense silence. "Can't you see she's fainted? Get a doctor; get a nurse; get out! Quick!"
It was hours later. Cozily ensconce in a nearby tearoom, Dick and the girl surveyed one another through a blur of pink candlelight and spring sunshine. And then only did Dickie get what Aunt Hattie would call "plain facts."
She had come on from New York; had to have money; no one wanted a secretary with bobbed hair. "So I got me a wig," chuckled Anna Rae. "And because I'd studied law at Columbia and wanted to know more about it, and all the lawyers and judges wanted secretaries over thirty, I got me a gray wig and--"
"You little villain, why didn't you tell me?"
"O--because--" Anna Rae absently traced a heart with her butter knife. "Guess I'll have to resign!" she sighed pensively.
"You bet you will! Judge'll never stand for those curls. Besides--"
"But I wanted to go on with my law!"
"You're getting on with me!" Dick's hand dropped suddenly over Anna Rae's. "I'm a lawyer, and I'll tell you something about law. Possession is nine-tenths of it!"
The waitress fluttered the menu ingratiatingly--then, giving the pair a quick, pitying glance, turned on her heel.
THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 30, 1919.
The Forgetful Poet
The answers to the gentleman's nutty puzzles were peanut, hazel nut, cream nut, butternut, chestnut, walnut.
What I Don't Want for Christmas
I don't want ties
Nor socks, what -----,
I don't want handkerchiefs at all.
I don't want shoes like old men -----,
No piperacks for my -----
No slippers, please,
No pipes, no pens, no purses,
Send no -----, tobacco jars
No mottoes and NO VERSES!
(My goodness--what does he want!)
[Answers next time.]
Copyright © 2013 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.
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