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Thorne Smith


Dopey All At Sea

Dopey thrust an inquiring nose from his box and sniffed delicately at the small bundle. The small bundle made noises and endeavoured to snatch at the nose. The nose, as if insulted, promptly withdrew. Presently it emerged again. Two eyes studied the bundle with growing alarm. The thing was actually alive. It might even be capable of inflicting pain. Down went the nose while the body attached to it shivered nervously. The bundle failed to attack. Dopey opened his lids and tried to look up without lifting his head. If he remained quite still, perhaps the bundle might mistake him for a chair or a table or, at least, a dead dog. The bundle was looking at him steadily and intently, but not hostilely. For a few moments the bundle and the dog took stock of each other, then Dopey transferred his attention to Tim and Sally. They seemed to be all right. The bundle had not molested them. In fact, it was allowing itself to be carried in Tim's arms. That suggested helplessness. Helplessness suggested safety. Dopey raised his head, boldly sniffed the bundle, and allowed his nose to be handled. It was rather pleasant. Such small paws could not be dangerous. Then Dopey did a remarkable thing. He crawled out of his box, seated himself beside it, then glanced significantly first at Tim, then at the bundle, and finally into the box. Although it made him look rather ridiculous the great dog repeated this eye-rolling operation several times.

"Why, the sweet old thing is actually offering his box to the infant," exclaimed Sally.

She found a clean towel and placed it on the floor of the box. Tim carefully laid the baby on the towel. Dopey settled himself grimly by the box and prepared to guard its contents. There was a proud light in his eyes, although his sensitive spirit was slightly dashed by the reflection cast on his person by the placing of the towel. They might have spared him that. A little delicacy would have been more fitting in the presence of a stranger.

Leaving the baby with Dopey, the parents withdrew to the front room.

"He's so maternal," observed Sally, "he might try to crawl in with the baby."

"Dopey has the instincts of a gentleman," said Tim.

"That's more than his master has," replied his wife.

In the front room Claire Meadows was waiting for them. At their appearance she threw several pillows off the divan and disclosed a large baby. This infant was possessed of teeth. It was two years old—almost a hag.

"Listen," began Claire hurriedly. "This baby is mine. I've just succeeded in stealing her back. I've got a splendid idea. You're to pretend it's your baby. Everyone knows you've had one. If anyone wants to look at her, squdge her up a lot and say she's yours."

"Rather tough on the baby," observed Tim.

"It's only for a short time," replied Claire.

"That's good," said Tim. "The baby might not last."

"But, Claire," protested Sally, "we can't very well show a baby with a full set of teeth."

"Show the other end," said Claire. "That's easy."

"You seem to have an answer for everything," remarked Tim.

"I suppose changing our child's sex is also a simple matter?" inquired Sally.

"It seemed to be for you," retorted Mrs. Meadows.

"But, Claire dear," protested Sally, "we're sailing in a few days."

"Then I'll sail with you," cried the resourceful Claire Meadows.

"That's a good idea, too," put in Tim.

"I'm not so sure about that," replied Sally. "Do you contemplate establishing a sort of ménage à trois?"

"Why not?" asked Tim lightly. "I feel like sowing some almost frantic oats."

"Is that so?" replied his wife. "Then I'll look round and see if I can't dig me up a serviceable old quatre"

"Two's company, three's a crowd, and four make a vice ring," remarked her husband. "That will be swell."

"Oh, I can dig up the quatre" cried Claire Meadows brightly. "I remembered the name of this baby's father and called him up. He was very sweet about it. He's willing to do anything. We'll take him along."

"That's better," declared Sally. "And if he leaves you stranded, there's always Uncle Dick. He's looking for an American representative."

"Then it's all settled," said Claire. "I'm terribly relieved."

"We're so glad you are," smiled Sally, "but I foresee unseemly if diverting complications."

*    *    *    *

The sun gleamed down on the boat deck. In a secluded corner three dogs, three high-bred dogs sat before their respective dog houses. One glance at those dogs was enough to show that this was not their first crossing. By no means. Those dogs were bored. There was a fourth house, but no dog sat in front of it. Presently a nose appeared, then two timid eyes. They looked fearfully at the high-bred dogs, then turned away. Those dogs looked sinister to the eyes. Have nothing to do with them. Then the eyes rested on the broad Atlantic and watched with great anxiety the approach of a fat wave. This would be the end.

"Oh, my God," breathed Dopey, "is all that water there yet?"

But God did not answer.

The dog scrabbled round in his house and exposed his gnarled rump not only to all who might care to behold, but also to the tumbling reaches of that disconcerting ocean.

Once there had been a certain box on a floor that did not heave ... ah, well ... a dog's life was like that.

Dopey sighed and slept, shivering slightly in his sleep as he dreamed of an endless ocean alive with a drove of waves.


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