Once upon a time Ferdinand breathed right into Adele’s translucent Listener those three Words which hold all Records as monosyllabic Trouble-Makers.
They have a harmless look on the Printed Page, but when pulled at the Psychological turn of the Road, they become the Funeral Knell of Bachelor Freedom and a Prelude to cutting the String on whatever has been put by.
The Serpent, operating in the guise of a Lover in a Serge Suit, had lured, cajoled, wheedled, and finessed until the poor trembling Child, only twenty-four years of Age, was alone with him in what the Landscaper had worked off on her Papa as a Formal Garden.
They stood clinched there in the dull Sunset Glow, with a Pergola for a Background. It was all very Belasco and in strict compliance with the League Rules laid down by W. Somerset Maugham.
According to the $2 Drama and every bright red Volume selling for $1.18 at a Department Store, this was–
The Curtain began to descend very slowly, with Ferdinand and Adele holding the Picture.
It seems, however, that they had not come to the real, sure-enough Finis. The Terminus was some distance down the Line.
The Curtain refused to fall.
“What is the idea?” asked Adele, somewhat perturbed. “We have hit the logical Climax of our Romance. As I understand it, we are now supposed to ascend in a Cloud and float through Ethereal Bliss for an indefinite Period.
“Right-o!” said Fiance. “According to all the approved Dope, we are booked to live happily ever after.”
Just then Her Best Friend came rapidly down the Gravel Walk with Anxiety stenciled on her Features.
The accepted Swain seemed to hear a low rumbling Wagnerian Effect from out the Clear Sky. In Music-Drama it is known as the Hammer Theme.
It is included in the Curriculum at every Fem Sem.
Ferdinand had a Hunch that somebody was getting ready to drop Cyanide of Potassium into his Cup of Joy.
“Oh, Adele!” said the Friend, just like that. “Oh, Adele, may I speak to you for a Mo-munt?”
Ferdinand made his Exit, much peeved, and the Friend expressed a Hope that she had arrived in time to throw the Switch and avert the Wrecking of a Life.
Far be it from her to Snitch, but it was her Duty to put Adele wise to what every one was whispering Under Cover.
She had no absolute Proof that he had carried on with a Front Row Floss in New Haven, but it was Common Talk that one of his Uncles had been a Regular at a Retreat where the Doctor shoots a Precious Metal into the Arm.
It would be terrible to marry someone and then find out that he Drank, the same as all the other Married Men.
Leaving Adele in a Deep Swoon, the true Friend hurried to the nearest Public ‘Phone to spread the dismal Tidings.
In the meantime the elated Lover had loped all the way to the University Club to spring it on the Navajos and receive their Felicitations.
His Rapture had rendered him fairly incoherent, and he was gurgling like an after-dinner Percolator; but he finally made it evident that he had been Hooked.
A deep Silence ensued, most of those present looking out the Window at the passing Traffic.
Finally a Shell-Back, who had been leading a Life of Single Torment ever since Sumter was fired upon, asked in a sepulchral Tone and without looking up from his Hand, “Has the Date been set?”
Ferdinand tried to tell them that he was going to the Altar and not to the Electric Chair, but he couldn’t get a single Slap on the Back.
The only one evincing Interest was a He-Hen named Herbert, who took him into the Cloak-Room to plant a few Canadian Thistles in the Garden of Love.
Herb said he had always liked the Girl, even if she had given a couple of his Best Pals the Whillykathrow.