Read Polly's Southern Cruise page 11 online free by Lillian Elizabeth Roy (2024)

CHAPTER XI--MEETING OLD FRIENDS IN PANAMA

After leaving Jamaica the Captain asked for instructions as to thechosen direction and the next stopping place.

"Well, after once seeing Jamaica, I suppose we have virtually seen everyother island in the Caribbean Group. The flowers, the climate, thenatives, even the employments are all similar if not exactly alike.There is but one point of interest that is not common to them all, andthat is the volcano of Mont Pelee on Martinique.

"But volcanoes are no curiosity to Polly because she lives in the craterof one of the largest extinct volcanoes in the Rockies, so there is nocall for the White Crest to stop at Martinique to show her Mont Pelee,"explained Mr. Dalken.

"Why not sail along past the different islands of the archipelago andhave a good look at them from our comfortable deck chairs," suggestedMrs. Courtney.

This proposition was received with approval and the Captain was advisedto steer a course as close as practical to the coral formations, and,those islands of volcanic structure, and permit the tourists to see theWindward Islands without troubling to go ashore.

Hence the yacht, in its cruise, sailed past Porto Rico, and the longstring of tiny isles connecting that important island with Barbados andTrinidad. St. Lucia, Dominica, and Martinique were left behind, and thenthe Captain changed his course to a westward direction.

Leaving Venezuela to the southward he sped on for the Canal Zone. Theplan originally made in New York would then be followed as closely aspossible. At Colon the White Crest would anchor until her passengers hadvisited all that was to be in that town seen, and then they would gothrough the great locks of the Canal and eventually reach the PacificOcean.

Mr. Dalken and the Captain figured that a week would be ample time inwhich to visit everything and come out of the Canal to the Colombiashore. But they reckoned without the young folks, as usual.

Soon after the yacht had anchored at Colon, the tourists started tovisit the town. They had not gone far before Jack discovered there wouldbe a great baseball match at the public park between the United Statesarmy side and the Colon players. His eye caught the names of two membersof the regiment stationed at Panama, and he turned to show them to Ray.

"Could it possibly be Bill Ainslee and Bob Madden of the A. E. F. inFrance?"

"I did hear something about Bill remaining with the regulars to trySouth America. We can't lose out by introducing ourselves, anyway, andten to one the boys will turn out to be our old Buddies," said Ray.

The proposition was made and accepted to go and see the ball game latethat afternoon; the girls felt as much interest in knowing whether ornot the two soldiers at Panama were the ones Jack believed them to be.

No sooner was the Dalken party seated in the Grand Stand, than Jack andRay hurried away. They were gone a long time, and the eager spectatorson the bleachers as well as those in the Grand Stand, had to call andshow impatience at the delay of the opening of the game before the teamscame out.

Jack and Ray returned to their friends on the Grand Stand. One glance attheir smiling faces told the girls that they had found pals. Jack wasbubbling over with pleasure at the meeting and the plans they had madefor a good time during the visit at Panama.

"Gee! Bill looks great! He was so white and thin in the trenches overthere, but now he has filled out and looks wonderful. I never dreamed hewould turn out to be so handsome, did you, Ray?"

"No, but then Bob isn't far behind in looks. It must be this climatethat tans them to such a glorious shade," said Ray.

"There are other things than tan that this climate does to one,"remarked Mr. Dalken, briefly. The boys laughed and agreed with him.

"For instance, malaria caught while alligator hunting," said Mrs.Fabian, because she had heard the men discussing the possibility oftheir tired feeling being the result of the swamp visit.

The game now opened and the girls were all eyes and interest to see thePanama team win, because Jack happened to know two of the players.Whether it was the knowledge that four pretty girls were seated in theGrand Stand watching, or whether it was their usual manner of pitchingand batting, the fact remains that Bill and Bob were the championmembers of the team that day, and carried away the honors.

After the game ended the two crack players changed their togs andreappeared in uniform. Jack met them and escorted them to meet Mr.Dalken's party. Then Polly saw that Jack had not exaggerated one bitwhen he had declared his two friends to be decidedly good looking.

"My! They're more than that, Poll," whispered Eleanor, in breathlessadmiration. "I think Bill is just too dear for anything."

Ray overheard her remark. He grinned teasingly and said: "It's theuniform, my dear child! If Bob or Bill wore a bell boy's uniform, they'dlook just as good, but you wouldn't think so."

"Pooh! No such thing!" exclaimed Eleanor, shrugging her pretty shouldersat Ray.

"Well, here is Jack and here am I, and I'm sure we are not bad looking,yet you never said you thought me 'too dear for anything,'" complainedRay.

"How could I speak an untruth?" retorted Eleanor, laughing.

"All right for you! I'll spy upon you after this and when I find youenjoying a tete-a-tete with a 'dear for anything boy' I'll spoil it--seeif I don't!" Ray threatened but the girls knew he cared not a figwhether they thought him handsome or not. He was all for a good time andthat was the end of his ambitions.

"Ray, you don't stand a ghost of a show in the running with Bill orBob," declared Jack. "Bill with his French Medal and Bob with hisDecoration for Bravery simply put us out of sight when the girls are onhand to offer adulation at the shrines of these heroes."

"Oh, Jack! Tell us--are the two baseball players great heroes of the latewar?" exclaimed Mrs. Courtney, eagerly.

"There now! Didn't I tell you so!" laughed Jack, winking at his chum."Even the adult admirers forget we are on earth the moment one mentionsBill and Bob."

"Please, oh, _please_, Jack, tell us the story of, what they did overthere," beseeched Polly.

"If I were to tell you that tale I'd spoil it in the telling. Better askBill and Bob to tell their own thrillers,--if you really want to hearsomething that will compare favorably with those hair-raisingexperiences on Grizzly Slide," replied Jack, earnestly.

During this little side-gossip the two victors in the recent contestwith the Colon players, were engaged in talking to Mr. Dalken. Now theyturned and addressed Jack.

"Mr. Dalken wishes us to dine on the yacht, but we shall have to askpermission to do that. I only wish we had a pull with some one, in orderto get several days off. Then we could show you about in great style!"Bill kept his eyes fixed upon Polly as he spoke, and any one might thinkhe was addressing her only. Eleanor smiled, but she had failed to turnand look at Bill's companion. It was Nancy and Ruth who had to smile nowat the attentive manner in which Bob stared at pretty Eleanor, totallyoblivious of the other girls in the party.

"Oh, Mr. Ainslee, Dalky here is the professional wire-puller of NorthAmerica--didn't you know that? I'm sure he can find a string that willwork for you," laughed Polly.

"Tell me the names of the officers in your regiment, Ainslee, and let mesee if I know them," added Mr. Dalken.

"There now! Didn't I tell you he could work it?" laughed Polly, whilethe other members in the group also laughed at their host's quickacceptance of the suggestion.

Having mentioned the various officers and spoken of their individualtendencies, Mr. Dalken smiled wisely. "Leave the whole matter to me,boys, and we will win out."

"Tell us, Dalky! What can you do about tonight?" asked the girlseagerly.

"For to-night, I propose having all the officers _and_ the two heroes ofthe ball game on the yacht to dinner. They cannot very well say no toBill and Bob if they accept for themselves, can they?"

"Good gracious, Dalky! If you plan to have a dinner party it is hightime we all ran away to prepare for the social event," declared Mrs.Courtney. This was the first time she had ever used the familiar namethe girls ha

d given Mr. Dalken, but it did not escape Polly's notice.She gave Eleanor a glance, but Eleanor had been too interested inlearning the outcome of the proposition made by Mr. Dalken.

"I haven't the slightest hope that our invitation will be accepted forthis evening, as in all probability the officers have made otherengagements for dinner. But it paves the way for me to urge them to giveBill and Bob leave of absence for to-night. Then I will invite the menwho cannot come to-night, to come as soon as they can make the date. Ibelieve I have a speaking acquaintance with the Colonel and I hope toimprove our acquaintance while we stop here--then you girls ought to beable to make the most of this opportunity by winning a few days'vacation for Bill and Bob."

"Fine!" exclaimed Eleanor, clapping her hands. "Now you three men hurryaway and see the Colonel."

Bill and Bob looked at Mr. Dalken and, seeing he was willing toaccompany them, they politely said good-afternoon to the other membersin the party and stood ready to go.

"There may be strength in numbers, and we are glad to go with you,"hinted Jack, linking an arm in that of Ray and stepping up beside thehost.

"As far as strength goes I always favor pretty girls for power when onehas to use diplomacy and cunning," laughed Mr. Dalken.

"Not in this case, however," retorted Bill. "If our Colonel knew thedanger we boys were running by volunteering to walk right up before theammunition of beauty, he'd never let us out of his sight."

"Ha! Mr. Ainslee discovered other things in France besides medals forbravery!" laughed Mrs. Courtney, shaking a playful finger at him.

"Medals! Who told you anything about medals?" asked Bill, with genuineamazement in his voice.

"A little bird whispered it at my ear," laughed Mrs. Courtney teasingly.

"I know the bird! We always thought it was a raven over there--from theway he croaked whenever he had to eat army mess," was the humorous replyfrom Bill.

Midst the general laugh at Jack's expense which followed Bill's speech,the men left and walked in the direction of the waiting automobile whichhad been placed at the ball-players' disposal for the day.

Polly turned to her friends and said: "Oh, I'm sure Dalky will succeedin getting them off for a few days. I really believe Dalky can do_anything_!"

Eleanor glanced at Mrs. Courtney as Polly spoke, and caught a puzzlingexpression which had flashed over that lady's face. In a moment,however, she was as inscrutable as ever she cared to appear.

"We may as well go into this shop and have a lemonade while we arewaiting for the returns of the election," suggested Mr. Ashby.

"Do you think it will take the boys very long to find the officer whocan permit them to get off tonight?" asked Polly.

"I have an idea that Bill will know exactly where to find his superiorsand not more than half an hour should elapse before they will comeback," returned Mr. Ashby, glancing at his watch.

"I was about to say--that we should have gone on to the yacht and dressedfor to-night, if they are to be gone as long as that," ventured Polly.

"I tell you what we might do!" cried Eleanor, plumping her glass uponthe marble slab with such emphasis that the lemonade spattered up andover her hands. "Leave Mr. Fabian and Mr. Ashby at this corner so theothers can see them upon their return, and we ladies go on to the yachtand touch up for the evening's fray."

"That's just what I was about to say," added Mrs. Courtney.

"Where's the fray? You ladies never thought the superior faction of thisyachting party worthy of captivation before," remarked Mr. Fabiancynically, albeit he smiled.

"I should say not! Two old married fogies, two harum-scarum boys, and agrass-widower!" exclaimed Nancy Fabian.

A general laugh rewarded Nancy's retort, and Mr. Ashby held up bothhands in a helpless manner. "Oh, for pity's sake, go--GO and touch up forthe young men, or Fabian and I shall have to crawl under the sodafountain to escape your wit!"

The girls started up at that and the ladies followed laughingly; soonthey were out of sight on their way to the White Crest and an elaboratetoilette for the dinner party that night.

"Some one ought to let the chef know Dalky expects to bring back guestsfor dinner," ventured Polly to Mrs. Courtney.

"I think orders have been given," replied she in a quiet tone.

"Why! How did Dalky know we expected to meet the boys whom Jack and Rayknew in France?" asked Polly, in astonishment.

"He didn't. But he did say that he thought it would be very pleasant tohave us meet the officers of the Post stationed at the Canal. It was hisintention to invite them to dine at their first opportunity. Hence heleft orders for the chef to prepare for extra plates every evening whilewe are here," explained Mrs. Courtney.

"Oh, that will be fine!" exclaimed Polly, but Eleanor wondered if Mrs.Fabian and Mrs. Ashby, as well as Mrs. Courtney, knew of thisarrangement.

Long before the females in the party came from their rooms robed in suchbecoming gowns as would distract any young man who, because of armydiscipline, had not had many opportunities to enjoy society, the mencame on board and, by the hilarious manner of their conversation,suggested that _apparently_ they had celebrated the victory of the Armybaseball players in a social drink of native wine. But this was not thecase. Sheer exuberance of spirits, natural not fermented, made the fourboys who had known each other in France, bubble over and sparkle withwit and fun.

Mr. Dalken invited Bill and Bob to amuse themselves on deck while he andhis male guests retired and dressed for dinner. Hence the two young menwere lounging in the great reed chairs when Polly and Eleanor appeared.There was no time for a little flirtation, however, as Mrs. Courtneycame out, looking magnificent in an American Beauty georgette gown, withher diamond neck-band and pendant earrings sparkling from throat andears. Polly gazed in appreciative admiration at the combination of darkwavy hair, high-colored complexion, and brilliant brown eyes, with therich crimson of the dress and the cold white of the diamonds.

Soon after this the other ladies joined the group on deck and finallythe men came forth in their somber black dinner coats and immaculatewhite collars and cuffs. Jack came puffing and fanning himself with hishandkerchief.

"Well, you girls ought to pay us a tribute for willingly going to thetorture chair to-night. Stiff collars and heavy cloth coats on a torridnight as this in the Canal Zone!"

"Nobody asked you to!" retorted Eleanor.

"Maybe not, but we knew what we would get if we appeared in the lists,with our friends here in their uniform, and the rest of us in ourtropical togs," returned Jack.

"Oh, then it is mere pride that drove you to the deed?" asked Polly.

"No, it was desperate fear!" exclaimed Ray. "What chance would we standwith a bevy of wonderful orchids and two dazzling hummingbirds--meaningBill and Bob, of course,--if we looked like sparrows from the citystreets?"

Every one laughed. "Orchids are too good to be forgotten," added Polly;"every time I see an orchid hereafter I shall remember that, for once inmy lifetime, I was compared to the rare and beautiful flower."

"Rare in New York, perhaps, but anything but rare down here!" retortedJack.

"Oh, pshaw! Why spoil such a lovely compliment with the truth,"remonstrated Mrs. Courtney.

The constant teasing and darts of wit between Jack and Ray on the oneside and Polly and Eleanor on the other, had been one source ofamusem*nt and perpetual fun for the tourists in Mr. Dalken's party, andnow that Bill and Bob had joined the others on deck that night, thequick repartee seemed tossed back and forth like a tennis ball betweenclever players.

A man servant now came over to announce dinner, and then, for the firsttime, Polly realized that the officers who were to be invited to dinnerhad not appeared.

"Where is the Colonel, Dalky?" asked she, wonderingly.

"Couldn't find him anywhere, but I secured the acceptance of the otherofficers for dinner to-morrow night," explained he.

"You did more than that, Dalky!" declared Jack, with a delighted glanceat Bill and Bob. "You got the boys th

ree days' leave while we arestationed here."

"Oh, really! Goody, goody!" cried several young voices in a chorus ofjoy.

"And an invitation for all to attend the usual weekly hop to-morrownight, but I can't see for the life of me how any one can dance with thethermometer pushing the top of the mercury out of the tube," grumbledJack.

"Listen to him! Any one would think he isn't the maddest one of thegroup when dancing is to be had!" laughed Mr. Dalken.

After finishing the first course, the host turned to his two new guestsand said: "We are on the griddle for the tale of your experiences inFrance, boys. I know the girls have had difficulty in curbing theirfeminine curiosity to hear of your exploits."

Both young men flushed, but Bob managed to say: "Bill, here, is thecrack story-teller. I always take a back seat when he is on hand to dothe honors for both."

Therefore Bill was deluged with demands for the story, and havingcleared his throat in a self-conscious way, he began.

But his preparations were ruined at that moment, when the Belgian lad onthe yacht, now unexpectedly introduced a diversion. He had approachedwith a laden tray, in order to assist the man servant who had charge ofthe dinner party, but when he saw the two young men in uniform, heimmediately sat the tray upon the floor and ran over to fall upon Bill'sneck.

Read Polly's Southern Cruise page 11 online free by Lillian Elizabeth Roy (2024)

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