But it did not bother Harry Underwood in the least. He gave her a shrewd appraising look and then turned to me with an air of dismissal that was as complete as her ignoring of him.
“Say!” he demanded, “aren’t you a bit curious about what brought me down here? You ought to be. The funniest thing in the world, my being down here.”
His silly repetitions, his slurred enunciation, his slightly unsteady figure made me realize with a quick horror that the man was more intoxicated than I supposed. How to get away from him as quickly as possible was the problem I faced. I decided to humor him as I would any other insane person I dreaded.
“I am never curious,” I responded lightly. “I suppose, of course, that you are here to visit the Aquarium, as we are. Good-by.”
“No you don’t—goin’ to take you and little lady here on nice ferry trip,” he announced genially. “Sorry, yacht’s out of commission this morning, but ferry will do very well.”
I have not much reason to like my mother-in-law, but I shall always be grateful to her for the way she cut the Gordian knot of my difficulties.
“Young man, you are impertinent and intoxicated,” she said haughtily. “Please step aside.”
And taking me firmly by the arm my mother-in-law walked steadily with me toward the door of the women’s rest room. Her manner of conducting me was much the same as the matron of a reformatory would use in taking a charge from one place to another, but I was too relieved to care. The leering face of Harry Underwood was no longer before my eyes, and his befuddled words no longer jarred upon my ears. Those were the only things that mattered to me for the moment. In my relief I felt strong enough to brave the weight of my mother-in-law’s anger, which I was very sure was about to descend upon me.
A DANGER AND A PROBLEM
Safe in the shelter of the Aquarium rest room my mother-in-law faced me. Her eyes were cold and hard, her tones like ice, as she spoke.
“Margaret! What is the meaning of this outrageous scene to which you have just subjected me? Am I to understand that this man is typical of your associates and friends? If so, I am indeed sorrier than ever that my son was ever inveigled into marrying you.”
For the moment I had a primitive instinct to scream and to smash things generally, a sort of Berserk rage. The insult left me deadly cold. Fortunately we were alone in the room, but I lowered my voice almost to a whisper as I replied to her:
“Mrs. Graham,” I said. “I never in my life knew there was a man like Mr. Underwood until I married your son. He and his wife, Lillian Gale, are your son’s most intimate friends. He has almost forced me to meet them time and again against my own inclinations. Of course, after what you have just said, there can be no further question of our trip together. If you will kindly wait here I will telephone your son to come and get you at once.”