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Tish’s Spy
by [?]



It is easy enough, of course, to look back on our Canadian experience and see where we went wrong. What I particularly resent is the attitude of Charlie Sands.

I am writing this for his benefit. It seems to me that a clean statement of the case is due to Tish, and, in less degree, to Aggie and myself.

It goes back long before the mysterious cipher. Even the incident of our abducting the girl in the pink tam-o’-shanter was, after all, the inevitable result of the series of occurrences that preceded it.

It is my intention to give this series of occurrences in their proper order and without bias. Herbert Spencer says that every act of one’s life is the unavoidable result of every act that has preceded it.

Naturally, therefore, I begin with the engagement by Tish of a girl as chauffeur; but even before that there were contributing causes. There was the faulty rearing of the McDonald youth, for instance, and Tish’s aesthetic dancing. And afterward there was Aggie’s hay fever, which made her sneeze and let go of a rope at a critical moment. Indeed, Aggie’s hay fever may be said to be one of the fundamental causes, being the reason we went to Canada.

It was like this: Along in June of the year before last, Aggie suddenly announced that she was going to spend the summer in Canada.

“It’s the best thing in the world for hay fever,” she said, avoiding Tish’s eye. “Mrs. Ostermaier says she never sneezed once last year. The Northern Lights fill the air with ozone, or something like that.”

“Fill the air with ozone!” Tish scoffed. “Fill Mrs. Ostermaier’s skull with ozone, instead of brains, more likely!”

Tish is a good woman–a sweet woman, indeed; but she has a vein of gentle irony, which she inherited from her maternal grandfather, who was on the Supreme Bench of his country. However, that spring she was inclined to be irritable. She could not drive her car, and that was where the trouble really started.

Tish had taken up aesthetic dancing in Mareb, wearing no stays and a middy blouse and short skirt; and during a fairy dance, where she was to twirl on her right toes, keeping the three other limbs horizontal, she twisted her right lower limb severely. Though not incapacitated, she could not use it properly; and, failing one day to put on the brake quickly, she drove into an open-front butter-and-egg shop.

[This was the time one of the newspapers headed the article: “Even the Eggs Scrambled.”]

When Tish decided to have a chauffeur for a time she advertised. There were plenty of replies, but all of the applicants smoked cigarettes–a habit Tish very properly deplores. The idea of securing a young woman was, I must confess, mine.

“Plenty of young women drive cars,” I said, “and drive well. And, at least, they don’t light a cigarette every time one stops to let a train go by.”

“Huh!” Tish commented. “And have a raft of men about all the time!”

Nevertheless, she acted on the suggestion, advertising for a young woman who could drive a car and had no followers. Hutchins answered.

She was very pretty and not over twenty; but, asked about men, her face underwent a change, almost a hardening. “You’ll not be bothered with men,” she said briefly. “I detest them!”

And this seemed to be the truth. Charlie Sands, for instance, for whose benefit this is being written, absolutely failed to make any impression on her. She met his overtures with cold disdain. She was also adamant to the men at the garage, succeeding in having the gasoline filtered through a chamois skin to take out the water, where Tish had for years begged for the same thing without success.

Though a dashing driver, Hutchins was careful. She sat on the small of her back and hurled us past the traffic policemen with a smile.