“Now, I’d clean forgot to have an understanding with Andy which I was to be, the duke or the lieutenant. And I couldn’t tell from her question whether she was referring to Arctic or matrimonial expeditions. So I gave an answer that would cover both cases.
“‘Well, ma’am,’ says I, ’it was a freeze out—right smart of a freeze out, ma’am.’
“And then the flood gates of Andy’s perorations was opened and I knew which one of the renowned ostensible guests I was supposed to be. I wasn’t either. Andy was both. And still furthermore it seemed that he was trying to be the mouthpiece of the whole British nobility and of Arctic exploration from Sir John Franklin down. It was the union of corn whiskey and the conscientious fictional form that Mr. W. D. Howletts admires so much.
“‘Ladies,’ says Andy, smiling semicircularly, ’I am truly glad to visit America. I do not consider the magna charta,’ says he, ’or gas balloons or snow-shoes in any way a detriment to the beauty and charm of your American women, skyscrapers or the architecture of your icebergs. The next time,’ says Andy, ’that I go after the North Pole all the Vanderbilts in Greenland won’t be able to turn me out in the cold—I mean make it hot for me.’
“‘Tell us about one of your trips, Lieutenant,’ says one of the normals.
“‘Sure,’ says Andy, getting the decision over a hiccup. ’It was in the spring of last year that I sailed the Castle of Blenheim up to latitude 87 degrees Fahrenheit and beat the record. Ladies,’ says Andy, ’it was a sad sight to see a Duke allied by a civil and liturgical chattel mortgage to one of your first families lost in a region of semiannual days.’ And then he goes on, ’At four bells we sighted Westminster Abbey, but there was not a drop to eat. At noon we threw out five sandbags, and the ship rose fifteen knots higher. At midnight,’ continues Andy, ’the restaurants closed. Sitting on a cake of ice we ate seven hot dogs. All around us was snow and ice. Six times a night the boatswain rose up and tore a leaf off the calendar, so we could keep time with the barometer. At 12,’ says Andy, with a lot of anguish on his face, ’three huge polar bears sprang down the hatchway, into the cabin. And then—’
“‘What then, Lieutenant?’ says a schoolma’am, excitedly.
“Andy gives a loud sob.
“‘The Duchess shook me,’ he cries out, and slides out of the chair and weeps on the porch.
“Well, of course, that fixed the scheme. The women boarders all left the next morning. The landlord wouldn’t speak to us for two days, but when he found we had money to pay our way he loosened up.
“So me and Andy had a quiet, restful summer after all, coming away from Crow Knob with $1,100, that we enticed out of old Smoke-’em-out playing seven up.”
SHEARING THE WOLF
Jeff Peters was always eloquent when the ethics of his profession was under discussion.