Certainly, Aunt Cynthia knew her business and if ever a picnic feast was appreciated, that one was.
But the climax came with the dessert.
A SHOCKING DEMONSTRATION OF INTEMPERANCE
The merrymaking was at its height. The festive board had been cleared for dessert.
“Cleared for action,” Captain Pennell said.
“Not heavy fire I hope,” sighed Shortie. “Peggy, will you excuse me, but I have surely got to let out a reef if anything more is coming,” and Shortie let out a hole or two in the leather belt which encircled the region into which innumerable waffles had disappeared.
“There are others; yes there are certainly others,” laughed the captain. “Peggy, my child, to play Circe and still smile is absolutely cruel. The ancient Circe frowned upon her victims.”
“And how can I swallow another morsel,” was Polly’s wail. “Peggy Stewart, why will you have so many good things all at once? Couldn’t you have spread it out over several meals and let us have it on the instalment plan?”
“Wheedles couldn’t have his birthday that way,” laughed Peggy, unwittingly letting a cat escape from a bag, for woe upon the midshipman whose birthday is known. Thus far Wheedles had kept it a profound secret, and Mrs. Harold and Polly, who were wise to what was likely to happen to him if it were known, had kept mum. But, alack, they had forgotten to warn Peggy and her words touched off the mine.
“Eh? What? Never! Something doing? You’re a sly one. Thought you’d get off scot-free, did you? Not on your sweet life! Let’s give him what for. Excuse this digression, Peggy; it’s a ceremony never omitted. It would have been attended to earlier in the day had we suspected, and it can’t be delayed any longer. Besides we must shake down that which has gone before if more is to follow. Beg pardon, Little Mother, but you know the traditions. Make our peace with Dr. Llewellyn for this little side-show,” and the next second Wheedles was in full flight with all his chums hotfoot upon his trail.
How in the world those boys could run as they did after such a feast without apoplexy following, must remain a mystery to all excepting those who have lived in their midst.
Over the lawn, dodging behind the oaks, vaulting the fence into the adjoining field, to the consternation of half a dozen sleek, sedate Alderney cows, tore Wheedles, his pursuers determined to overhand him and administer the drubbing incident to the iniquity of having a birthday.
Dr. Llewellyn and Captain Pennell rose to their feet, one shouting, the other yelling with the rest of the mob, while Mrs. Harold and the girls could only sit and laugh helplessly.
It was Shortie’s long legs which overtook the quarry, both coming to the ground with a crash which would have killed outright any one but a football tackle and a basket-ball captain. In a second the whole bunch had the laughing, helpless victim.