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The Stray Lamb


Thorne Smith



SANDRA and Mr. Lamb were too much in the public eye to get married, so they agreed to play make-believe. However, Mr. Lamb had extracted a promise from Sandra in the presence of Hebe and Melville Long to make him an honest man the moment they reached Paris.

Mr. Lamb had readily consented to go abroad for an indefinite period.

"If I stay here," he had remarked at the breakfast table, where the suggestion had first been advanced by Sandra, "all my friends will be sitting around expecting me to turn into something for them. As far as business is concented, I'm pow. A man who harbours the horrid fear that at any moment I may become a centipede or a panther is hardly in a receptive frame of mind to concentrate on a list of securities. Billings will have to carry on at the office, and Thomas will stand by the goods here at home."

"I might run over with a contingent of Boy Scouts myself," announced Brother Dug. " You'll know when we get there because we'll all be singing."

"Tell us where you're not going to be," said Hebe, "and we'll go there."

Douglas grinned amiably.

Hebe and Mr Long were married. During the last ten days he had proved himself useful in procuring the wrong tickets for the right boat or the right tickets for the wrong boat. The efficient Hebe had at last been forced to assume the responsibility of getting the party started. Mr. Long, senior, had been so pleased at the prospect of getting his son out of the house for some time to come that he had disgorged great quantities of money.

"I hope that at least you'll be able to prove yourself a father," the old gentleman had said upon relinquishing the cheque.

The three young people were now pushing Mr. Lamb up the gang-plank. To outwit the newspaper reporters he was wearing a false beard above which his eyes peered out guiltily at the world. Unfortunately, the beard fell off half-way up the gang-plank. He quickly slipped it into his pocket, leaving part of it sticking out.

"I thought you were wearing a beard, sir," observed his steward when he had placed the luggage in the state-room.

"No," explained Mr. Lamb. "That was someone seeing me off."

When the steward was about to leave Mr. Long appeared wearing the beard and solemnly shook hands with his father-in-law. The steward departed baffled. Needless to say, the party had been well primed for the occasion.

On the table in the Lamb suite reposed a bowl of animal crackers and a large Noah's Ark.

"Don't forget to sing," ran the accompanying note from Brother Dug. "Love and kisses."

The ship was now well under weigh. Several miles up the river two odd-looking characters were emerging from the pier shed—ancient Thomas and the vague-eyed half-wit, both of whom were already missing Mr. Lamb. That gentleman and Sandra were standing in the stern. Sandra was getting very close to him. They were both looking back at the wake of the ship. It was the same ship on which Mr. Lamb had once been such a disturbing stowaway. Sandra continued to cram herself against her companion. Mr. Lamb gave her a pinch of protest.

"Don't hurl yourself at me like that," he complained, looking nervously about him. "You're practically sitting on my chest. I'm not an open subway door."

Apparently Sandra did not hear him. She wedged herself even closer. Suddenly Mr. Lamb pointed to a weather-beaten old seagull raucously following the ship.

"See that old devil?" said Mr. Lamb. " Well, I think I know that gull. He asked me to eat fertilizer with him once."

"Do you happen to know who's aboard this ship?" asked Hebe brightly, suddenly appearing at the rail. "I hope not," replied her father. "Who?"

"Sapho and Leonard Gray," announced Hebe.

Mr. Lamb stood as if contemplating a rapid descent into the sea. Sandra seemed highly delighted by the news.

"Married or not?" she asked.

"Not," said Hebe briefly. "Leonard doesn't know the meaning of the word."

"A nice ship, this," observed Mr. Lamb.

"Where do you get off?" demanded his daughter. Mr. Lamb turned back to the rail and gazed along the trailing wake, where the old seagull and his mob were scurrying greedily among the waves. A suggestion of a grin was beginning to gather slowly at the corners of his lips.

"Well, two can play at that game," thought Mr. Lamb. "Or rather four . . . and a very amusing game it is."

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