The Escape From Mardonale
: The Skylark Of Space
"That was a wonderful bluff, Dick!" exclaimed the Kofedix in English as
soon as Nalboon and his guards had disappeared. "That was exactly the
tone to take with him, too--you've sure got him guessing!"
"It seemed to get him, all right, but I'm wondering how long it'll hold
him. I think we'd better make a dash for the Skylark right now, before
he has time to think it over, don't you?"
undoubtedly the best way," Dunark replied, lapsing into his own
tongue. "Nalboon is plainly in awe of you now, but if I understand him
at all, he is more than ever determined to seize your vessel, and every
darkam's delay is dangerous."
The Earth-people quickly secured the few personal belongings they had
brought with them. Stepping out into the hall and waving away the
guards, Seaton motioned Dunark to lead the way. The other captives fell
in behind, as they had done before, and the party walked boldly toward
the door of the palace. The guards offered no opposition, but stood at
attention and saluted as they passed. As they approached the entrance,
however, Seaton saw the major-domo hurrying away and surmised that he
was carrying the news to Nalboon. Outside the door, walking directly
toward the landing dock, Dunark spoke in a low voice to Seaton, without
"Nalboon knows by this time that we are making our escape, and it will
be war to the death from here to the Skylark. I do not think there will
be any pursuit from the palace, but he has warned the officers in charge
of the dock and they will try to kill us as soon as we step out of the
elevator, perhaps sooner. Nalboon intended to wait, but we have forced
his hand and the dock is undoubtedly swarming with soldiers now. Shoot
first and oftenest. Shoot first and think afterward. Show no mercy, as
you will receive none--remember that the quality you call 'mercy' does
not exist upon Osnome."
Rounding a great metal statue about fifty feet from the base of the
towering dock, they saw that the door leading into one of the elevators
was wide open and that two guards stood just inside it. As they caught
sight of the approaching party, the guards raised their rifles; but,
quick as they were, Seaton was quicker. At the first sight of the open
door he had made two quick steps and had hurled himself across the
intervening forty feet in a long football plunge. Before the two guards
could straighten, he crashed into them, his great momentum hurling them
across the elevator cage and crushing them into unconsciousness against
its metal wall.
"Good work!" said Dunark, as he preceded the others into the elevator,
and, after receiving Seaton's permission, distributed the weapons of the
two guards among the men of his party. "Now we can surprise those upon
the roof. That was why you didn't shoot?"
"Yes, I was afraid to risk a shot--it would give the whole thing away,"
Seaton replied, as he threw the unconscious guards out into the grounds
and closed the massive door.
"Aren't you going to kill them?" asked Sitar, amazement in every feature
and a puzzled expression in her splendid eyes. A murmur arose from the
other Kondalians, which was quickly silenced by the Kofedix.
"It is dishonorable for a soldier of Earth to kill a helpless prisoner,"
he said briefly. "We cannot understand it, but we must not attempt to
sway him in any point of honor."
Dunark stepped to the controls and the elevator shot upward, stopping at
a landing several stories below the top of the dock. He took a peculiar
device from his belt and fitted it over the muzzle of his strange
"We will get out here," he instructed the others, "and go up the rest of
the way by a little-used flight of stairs. We will probably encounter
some few guards, but I can dispose of them without raising an alarm. You
will all stay behind me, please."
Seaton remonstrated, and Dunark went on:
"No, Seaton, you have done your share, and more. I am upon familiar
ground now, and can do the work alone better than if you were to help
me. I will call upon you, however, before we reach the dock."
The Kofedix led the way, his pistol resting lightly against his hip, and
at the first turn of the corridor they came full upon four guards. The
pistol did not move from its place at the side of the leader, but there
were four subdued clicks and the four guards dropped dead, with bullets
through their brains.
"Seaton, that is some silencer," whispered DuQuesne. "I didn't suppose
a silencer could work that fast."
"They don't use powder," Seaton replied absently, all his faculties
directed toward the next corner. "The bullets are propelled by an
In the same manner Dunark disposed of several more guards before the
last stairway was reached.
* * * * *
"Seaton," he whispered in English, "now is the time we need your rapid
pistol-work and your high-explosive shells. There must be hundreds of
soldiers on the other side of that door, armed with machine-cannon
shooting high-explosive shells at the rate of a thousand per minute. Our
chance is this--their guns are probably trained upon the elevators and
main stairways, since this passage is unused and none of us would be
expected to know of it. Most of them don't know of it themselves. It
will take them a second or two to bring their guns to bear upon us. We
must do all the damage we can--kill them all, if possible--in that
second or two. If Crane will lend me a pistol, we'll make the rush
"I've a better scheme than that," interrupted DuQuesne. "Next to you,
Seaton, I'm the fastest man with a gun here. Also, like you, I can use
both hands at once. Give me a couple of clips of those special
cartridges and you and I will blow that bunch into the air before they
know we're here."
It was decided that the two pistol experts should take the lead, closely
followed by Crane and Dunark. The weapons were loaded to capacity and
put in readiness for instant use.
"Let's go, bunch!" said Seaton. "The quicker we start the quicker we'll
get back. Get ready to run out there, all the rest of you, as soon as
the battle's over. Ready? On your marks--get set--go!"
He kicked the door open and there was a stuttering crash as the four
automatic pistols simultaneously burst into practically continuous
flame--a crash obliterated by an overwhelming concussion of sound as the
X-plosive shells, sweeping the entire roof with a rapidly-opening fan of
death, struck their marks and exploded. Well it was for the little group
of wanderers that the two men in the door were past masters in the art
of handling their weapons; well it was that they had in their tiny
pistol-bullets the explosive force of hundreds of giant shells! For rank
upon rank of soldiery were massed upon the roof; rapid-fire cannon,
terrible engines of destruction, were pointing toward the elevators and
toward the main stairways and approaches. But so rapid and fierce was
the attack, that even those trained gunners had no time to point their
guns. The battle lasted little more than a second, being over before
either Crane or Dunark could fire a shot, and silence again reigned even
while broken and shattered remnants of the guns and fragments of the
metal and stone of the dock were still falling to the ground through a
fine mist of what had once been men.
Assured by a rapid glance that not a single Mardonalian remained upon
the dock, Seaton turned back to the others.
"Make it snappy, bunch! This is going to be a mighty unhealthy spot for
us in a few minutes."
Dorothy threw her arms around his neck in relief. With one arm about
her, he hastily led the way across the dock toward the Skylark, choosing
the path with care because of the yawning holes blown into the structure
by the terrific force of the explosions. The Skylark was still in place,
held immovable by the attractor, but what a sight she was! Her crystal
windows were shattered; her mighty plates of four-foot Norwegian armor
were bent and cracked and twisted; two of her doors, warped and
battered, hung awry from their broken hinges. Not a shell had struck
her: all this damage had been done by flying fragments of the guns and
of the dock itself; and Seaton and Crane, who had developed the new
explosive, stood aghast at its awful power.
They hastily climbed into the vessel, and Seaton assured himself that
the controls were uninjured.
"I hear battleships," Dunark said. "Is it permitted that I operate one
of your machine guns?"
"Go as far as you like," responded Seaton, as he placed the women
beneath the copper bar--the safest place in the vessel--and leaped to
the instrument board. Before he reached it, and while DuQuesne, Crane,
and Dunark were hastening to the guns, the whine of giant
helicopter-screws was plainly heard. A ranging shell from the first
warship, sighted a little low, exploded against the side of the dock
beneath them. He reached the levers just as the second shell screamed
through the air a bare four feet above them. As he shot the Skylark into
the air under five notches of power, a steady stream of the huge bombs
poured through the spot where, an instant before, the vessel had been.
Crane and DuQuesne aimed several shots at the battleships, which were
approaching from all sides, but the range was so extreme that no damage
They heard the continuous chattering of the machine gun operated by the
Kofedix, however, and turned toward him. He was shooting, not at the
warships, but at the city rapidly growing smaller beneath them; moving
the barrel of the rifle in a tiny spiral; spraying the entire city with
death and destruction! As they looked, the first of the shells reached
the ground, just as Dunark ceased firing for lack of ammunition. They
saw the palace disappear as if by magic, being instantly blotted out in
a cloud of dust--a cloud which, with a spiral motion of dizzying
rapidity, increased in size until it obscured the entire city.
* * * * *
Having attained sufficient altitude to be safe from any possible pursuit
and out of range of even the heaviest guns, Seaton stopped the vessel
and went out into the main compartment to consult with the other
members of the group, about their next move.
"It sure does feel good to get a breath of cool air, folks," he said, as
he drew with relief a deep breath of the air, which, at that great
elevation, was of an icy temperature and very thin. He glanced at the
little group of Kondalians as he spoke, then leaped back to the
instrument board with an apology on his lips--they were gasping for
breath and shivering with the cold. He switched on the heating coils and
dropped the Skylark rapidly in a long descent toward the ocean.
"If that is the temperature you enjoy, I understand at last why you wear
clothes," said the Kofedix, as soon as he could talk.
"Do not your planes fly up into the regions of low temperature?" asked
"Only occasionally, and all high-flying vessels are enclosed and heated
to our normal temperature. We have heavy wraps, but we dislike to wear
them so intensely that we never subject ourselves to any cold."
"Well, there's no accounting for tastes," returned Seaton, "but I can't
hand your climate a thing. It's hotter even than Washington in August;
'and that,' as the poet feelingly remarked, 'is going some!'
"But there's no reason for sitting here in the dark," he continued, as
he switched on the powerful daylight lamps which lighted the vessel with
the nearest approach to sunlight possible to produce. As soon as the
lights were on, Dorothy looked intently at the strange women.
"Now we can see what color they really are," she explained to her lover
in a low voice. "Why, they aren't so very different from what they were
before, except that the colors are much softer and more pleasing. They
really are beautiful, in spite of being green. Don't you think so,
"They're a handsome bunch, all right," he agreed, and they were. Their
skins were a light, soft green, tanned to an olive shade by their many
fervent suns. Their teeth were a brilliant and shining grass-green.
Their eyes and their long, thick hair were a glossy black.
The Kondalians looked at the Earthly visitors and at each other, and the
women uttered exclamations of horror.
"What a frightful light?" exclaimed Sitar. "Please shut it off. I would
rather be in total darkness than look like this!"
"What's the matter, Sitar?" asked the puzzled Dorothy as Seaton turned
off the lights. "You look perfectly stunning in this light."
"They see things differently than we do," explained Seaton. "Their optic
nerves react differently than ours do. While we look all right to them,
and they look all right to us, in both kinds of light, they look just as
different to themselves under our daylight lamps as we do to ourselves
in their green light. Is that explanation clear?"
"It's clear enough as far as it goes, but what do they look like to
"That's too deep for me--I can't explain it, any better than you can.
Take the Osnomian color 'mlap,' for instance. Can you describe it?"
"It's a kind of greenish orange--but it seems as though it ought not to
look like that color either."
"That's it, exactly. From the knowledge you received from the educator,
it should be a brilliant purple. That is due to the difference in the
optic nerves, which explains why we see things so differently from the
way the Osnomians do. Perhaps they can describe the way they look to
each other in our white light."
"Can you, Sitar?" asked Dorothy.
"One word describes it--'horrible.'" replied the Kondalian princess, and
her husband added:
"The colors are distorted and unrecognizable, just as your colors are to
your eyes in our light."
"Well, now that the color question is answered, let's get going. I
pretty nearly asked you the way, Dunark--forgot that I know it as well
as you do."
* * * * *
The Skylark set off at as high an altitude as the Osnomians could stand.
As they neared the ocean several great Mardonalian battleships, warned
of the escape, sought to intercept them; but the Skylark hopped over
them easily, out of range of their heaviest guns, and flew onward at
such speed that pursuit was not even attempted. The ocean was quickly
crossed. Soon the space-car came to rest over a great city, and Seaton
pointed out the palace; which, with its landing dock nearby, was very
similar to that of Nalboon, in the capital city of Mardonale.
Crane drew Seaton to one side.
"Do you think it is safe to trust these Kondalians, any more than it was
the others? How would it be to stay in the Lark instead of going into
"Yes, Mart, this bunch can be trusted. Dunark has a lot of darn queer
ideas, but he's square as a die. He's our friend, and will get us the
copper. We have no choice now, anyway, look at the bar. We haven't an
ounce of copper left--we're down to the plating in spots. Besides, we
couldn't go anywhere if we had a ton of copper, because the old bus is a
wreck. She won't hold air--you could throw a cat out through the shell
in any direction. She'll have to have a lot of work done on her before
we can think of leaving. As to staying in her, that wouldn't help us a
bit. Steel is as soft as wood to these folks--their shells would go
through her as though she were made of mush. They are made of metal that
is harder than diamond and tougher than rubber, and when they strike
they bore in like drill-bits. If they are out to get us they'll do it
anyway, whether we're here or there, so we may as well be guests. But
there's no danger, Mart. You know I swapped brains with him, and I know
him as well as I know myself. He's a good, square man--one of our kind
Convinced, Crane nodded his head and the Skylark dropped toward the
dock. While they were still high in air, Dunark took an instrument from
his belt and rapidly manipulated a small lever. The others felt the air
vibrate--a peculiar, pulsating wave, which, to the surprise of the
Earthly visitors, they could read without difficulty. It was a message
from the Kofedix to the entire city, telling of the escape of his party
and giving the news that he was accompanied by two great Karfedo from
another world. Then the pulsations became unintelligible, and all knew
that he had tuned his instrument away from the "general" key into the
individual key of some one person.
"I just let my father, the Karfedix, know that we are coming," he
explained, as the vibrations ceased.
From the city beneath them hundreds of great guns roared forth a
welcome, banners and streamers hung from every possible point, and the
air became tinted and perfumed with a bewildering variety of colors and
scents and quivered with the rush of messages of welcome. The Skylark
was soon surrounded by a majestic fleet of giant warships, who escorted
her with impressive ceremony to the landing dock, while around them
flitted great numbers of other aircraft. The tiny one-man helicopters
darted hither and thither, apparently always in imminent danger of
colliding with some of their larger neighbors, but always escaping as
though by a miracle. Beautiful pleasure-planes soared and dipped and
wheeled like giant gulls; and, cleaving their stately way through the
numberless lesser craft; immense multiplane passenger liners partially
supported by helicopter screws turned aside from their scheduled courses
to pay homage to the Kofedix of Kondal.
As the Skylark approached the top of the dock, all the escorting vessels
dropped away and Crane saw that instead of the brilliant assemblage he
had expected to see upon the landing-place there was only a small group
of persons, as completely unadorned as were those in the car. In answer
to his look of surprise, the Kofedix said, with deep feeling:
"My father, mother, and the rest of the family. They know that we, as
escaped captives, would be without harness or trappings, and are meeting
us in the same state."
* * * * *
Seaton brought the vessel to the dock near the little group, and the
Earthly visitors remained inside their vessel while the rulers of Kondal
welcomed the sons and daughters they had given up for dead.
After the affecting reunion, which was very similar to an earthly one
under similar circumstances, the Kofedix led his father up to the
Skylark and his guests stepped down upon the dock.
"Friends," Dunark began, "I have told you of my father, Roban, the
Karfedix of Kondal. Father, it is a great honor to present to you those
who rescued us from Mardonale--Seaton, Karfedix of Knowledge; Crane,
Karfedix of Wealth; Miss Vaneman; and Miss Spencer. Karfedix DuQuesne,"
waving his hand toward him, "is a lesser Karfedix of Knowledge, captive
to the others."
"The Kofedix Dunark exaggerates our services," deprecated Seaton, "and
doesn't mention the fact that he saved all our lives. But for him we all
should have been killed."
The Karfedix, disregarding Seaton's remark, acknowledged the
indebtedness of Kondal in heartfelt accents before he led them back to
the other party and made the introductions. As all walked toward the
elevators, the emperor turned to his son with a puzzled expression.
"I know from your message, Dunark, that our guests are from a distant
solar system, and I can understand your accident with the educator, but
I cannot understand the titles of these men. Knowledge and wealth are
not ruled over. Are you sure that you have translated their titles
"As correctly as I can--we have no words in our language to express the
meaning. Their government is a most peculiar one, the rulers all being
chosen by the people of the whole nation...."
"Extraordinary!" interjected the older man. "How, then, can anything be
"I do not understand the thing myself, it is so utterly unheard-of. But
they have no royalty, as we understand the term. In America, their
country, every man is equal.
"That is," he hastened to correct himself, "they are not all equal,
either, as they have two classes which would rank with royalty--those
who have attained to great heights of knowledge and those who have
amassed great wealth. This explanation is entirely inadequate and does
not give the right idea of their positions, but it is as close as I can
come to the truth in our language."
"I am surprised that you should be carrying a prisoner with you,
Karfedo," said Roban, addressing Seaton and Crane. "You will, of course,
be at perfect liberty to put him to death in any way that pleases you,
just as though you were in your own kingdoms. But perchance you are
saving him so that his death will crown your home-coming?"
The Kofedix spoke in answer while Seaton, usually so quick to speak, was
groping for words.
"No, father, he is not to be put to death. That is another peculiar
custom of the Earth-men; they consider it dishonorable to harm a
captive, or even an unarmed enemy. For that reason we must treat the
Karfedix DuQuesne with every courtesy due his rank, but at the same time
he is to be allowed to do only such things as may be permitted by Seaton
"Yet they do not seem to be a weak race," mused the older man.
"They are a mighty race, far advanced in evolution," replied his son.
"It is not weakness, but a peculiar moral code. We have many things to
learn from them, and but few to give them in return. Their visit will
mean much to Kondal."
* * * * *
During this conversation they had descended to the ground and had
reached the palace, after traversing grounds even more sumptuous and
splendid than those surrounding the palace of Nalboon. Inside the palace
walls the Kofedix himself led the guests to their rooms, accompanied by
the major-domo and an escort of guards. He explained to them that the
rooms were all inter-communicating, each having a completely equipped
"Complete except for cold water, you mean," said Seaton with a smile.
"There is cold water," rejoined the other, leading him into the bathroom
and releasing a ten-inch stream of lukewarm water into the small
swimming pool, built of polished metal, which forms part of every
Kondalian bathroom. "But I am forgetting that you like extreme cold. We
will install refrigerating machines at once."
"Don't do it--thanks just the same. We won't be here long enough to make
it worth while."
Dunark smilingly replied that he would make his guests as comfortable as
he could, and after informing them that in one kam he would return and
escort them in to koprat, took his leave. Scarcely had the guests
freshened themselves when he was back, but he was no longer the Dunark
they had known. He now wore a metal-and-leather harness which was one
blaze of precious gems, and a leather belt hung with jeweled weapons
replaced the familiar hollow girdle of metal. His right arm, between the
wrist and the elbow, was almost covered by six bracelets of a
transparent metal, deep cobalt-blue in color, each set with an
incredibly brilliant stone of the same shade. On his left wrist he wore
an Osnomian chronometer. This was an instrument resembling the odometer
of an automobile, whose numerous revolving segments revealed a large and
constantly increasing number--the date and time of the Osnomian day,
expressed in a decimal number of the karkamo of Kondalian history.
"Greetings, oh guests from Earth! I feel more like myself, now that I am
again in my trappings and have my weapons at my side. Will you accompany
me to koprat, or are you not hungry?" as he attached the peculiar
timepieces to the wrists of the guests, with bracelets of the deep-blue
"We accept with thanks," replied Dorothy promptly. "We're starving to
death, as usual."
As they walked toward the dining hall, Dunark noticed that Dorothy's
eyes strayed toward his bracelets, and he answered her unasked question:
"These are our wedding rings. Man and wife exchange bracelets as part of
"Then you can tell whether a man is married or not, and how many wives
he has, simply by looking at his arm? We should have something like that
on Earth, Dick--then married men wouldn't find it so easy to pose as
Roban met them at the door of the great dining hall. He also was in full
panoply, and Dorothy counted ten of the heavy bracelets upon his right
arm as he led them to places near his own. The room was a replica of the
other Osnomian dining hall they had seen and the women were decorated
with the same barbaric splendor of scintillating gems.
After the meal, which was a happy one, taking the nature of a
celebration in honor of the return of the captives, DuQuesne went
directly to his room while the others spent the time until the zero hour
in strolling about the splendid grounds, always escorted by many guards.
Returning to the room occupied by the two girls, the couples separated,
each girl accompanying her lover to the door of his room.
Margaret was ill at ease, though trying hard to appear completely
"What is the matter, sweetheart Peggy?" asked Crane, solicitously.
"I didn't know that you...." she broke off and continued with a rush:
"What did the Kofedix mean just now, when he called you the Karfedix of
"Well, you see, I happen to have some money...." he began.
"Then you are the great M. Reynolds Crane?" she interrupted, in
"Leave off 'the great,'" he said, then, noting her expression, he took
her in his arms and laughed slightly.
"Is that all that was bothering you? What does a little money amount to
between you and me?"
"Nothing--but I'm awfully glad that I didn't know it before," she
replied, as she returned his caress with fervor. "That is, it means
nothing if you are perfectly sure I'm not...."
Crane, the imperturbable, broke a life-long rule and interrupted her.
"Do not say that, dear. You know as well as I do that between you and me
there never have been, are not now, and never shall be, any doubts or
* * * * *
"If I could have a real cold bath now, I'd feel fine," remarked Seaton,
standing in his own door with Dorothy by his side. "I'm no blooming
Englishman but in weather as hot as this I sure would like to dive into
a good cold tank. How do you feel after all this excitement, Dottie? Up
"I'm scared purple," she replied, nestling against him, "or, at least,
if not exactly scared, I'm apprehensive and nervous. I always thought I
had good nerves, but everything here is so horrible and unreal, that I
can't help but feel it. When I'm with you I really enjoy the experience,
but when I'm alone or with Peggy, especially in the sleeping-period,
which is so awfully long and when it seems that something terrible is
going to happen every minute, my mind goes off in spite of me into
thoughts of what may happen. Why, last night, Peggy and I just huddled
up to each other in a ghastly yellow funk--dreading we knew not
what--the two of us slept hardly at all."
"I'm sorry, little girl," replied Seaton, embracing her tenderly,
"sorrier than I can say. I know that your nerves are all right, but you
haven't roughed it enough, or lived in strange environments enough, to
be able to feel at home. The reason you feel safer with me is that I
feel perfectly at home here myself, not that your nerves are going to
pieces or anything like that. It won't be for long, though,
sweetheart--as soon as we get the chariot fixed up we'll beat it back to
the Earth so fast it'll make your head spin."
"Yes, I think that's the reason, lover. I hope you won't think I'm a
clinging vine, but I can't help being afraid of something here every
time I'm away from you. You're so self-reliant, so perfectly at ease
here, that it makes me feel the same way."
"I am perfectly at ease. There's nothing to be afraid of. I've been in
hundreds of worse places, right on Earth. I sure wish I could be with
you all the time, sweetheart girl--only you can understand just how much
I wish it--but, as I said before, it won't be long until we can be
together all the time."
Dorothy pushed him into his room, followed him within it, closed the
door, and put both hands on his arm.
"Dick, sweetheart," she whispered, while a hot blush suffused her face,
"you're not as dumb as I thought you were--you're dumber! But if you
simply won't say it, I will. Don't you know that a marriage that is
legal where it is performed is legal anywhere, and that no law says that
the marriage must be performed upon the Earth?"
He pressed her to his heart in a mighty embrace, and his low voice
showed in every vibration the depth of the feeling he held for the
beautiful woman in his arms as he replied:
"I never thought of that, sweetheart, and I wouldn't have dared mention
it if I had. You're so far away from your family and your friends that
it would seem...."
"It wouldn't seem anything of the kind," she broke in earnestly. "Don't
you see, you big, dense, wonderful man, that it is the only thing to do?
We need each other, or at least, I need you, so much now...."
"Say 'each other'; it's right," declared her lover with fervor.
"It's foolish to wait. Mother would like to have seen me married, of
course; but there will be great advantages, even on that side. A grand
wedding, of the kind we would simply have to have in Washington, doesn't
appeal to me any more than it does to you--and it would bore you to
extinction. Dad would hate it, too--it's better all around to be married
Seaton, who had been trying to speak, silenced her.
"I'm convinced, Dottie, have been ever since the first word. If you can
see it that way I'm so glad that I can't express it. I've been scared
stiff every time I thought of our wedding. I'll speak to the Karfedix
the first thing in the morning, and we'll be married tomorrow--or rather
today, since it is past the zero kam," as he glanced at the chronometer
upon his wrist, which, driven by wireless impulses from the master-clock
in the national observatory, was clicking off the darkamo with an almost
inaudible purr of its smoothly-revolving segments.
"How would it be to wake him up and have it done now?"
"Oh, Dick, be reasonable! That would never do. Tomorrow will be most
awfully sudden, as it is! And Dick, please speak to Martin, will you?
Peggy's even more scared than I am, and Martin, the dear old stupid, is
even less likely to suggest such a thing as this kind of a wedding than
you are. Peggy's afraid to suggest it to him."
"Woman!" he said in mock sternness, "Is this a put-up job?"
"It certainly is. Did you think I had nerve enough to do it without
Seaton turned and opened the door.
"Mart! Bring Peggy over here!" he called, as he led Dorothy back into
the girls' room.
"Heavens, Dick, be careful! You'll spoil the whole thing!"
"No, I won't. Leave it to me--I bashfully admit that I'm a regular
bear-cat at this diplomatic stuff. Watch my smoke!"
"Folks," he said, when the four were together, "Dottie and I have been
talking things over, and we've decided that today's the best possible
date for a wedding. Dottie's afraid of these long, daylight nights, and
I admit that I'd sleep a lot sounder if I knew where she was all the
time instead of only part of it. She says she's willing, provided you
folks see it the same way and make it double. How about it?"
Margaret blushed furiously and Crane's lean, handsome face assumed a
darker color as he replied:
"A marriage here would, of course, be legal anywhere, provided we have a
certificate, and we could be married again upon our return if we think
it desirable. It might look as though we were taking an unfair advantage
of the girls, Dick, but considering all the circumstances, I think it
would be the best thing for everyone concerned."
He saw the supreme joy in Margaret's eyes, and his own assumed a new
light as he drew her into the hollow of his arm.
"Peggy has known me only a short time, but nothing else in the world is
as certain as our love. It is the bride's privilege to set the date, so
I will only say that it cannot be too soon for me."
"The sooner the better," said Margaret, with a blush that would have
been divine in any earthly light, "did you say 'today,' Dick?"
"I'll see the Karfedix as soon as he gets up," he answered, and walked
with Dorothy to his door.
"I'm just too supremely happy for words," Dorothy whispered in Seaton's
ear as he bade her good-night. "I won't be able to sleep or anything!"