Rex Stout Fullscreen Officer and Lady (1917)

Pause

Would he!

The major’s voice came:

“Go, please.

I’m sleepy, and you’ve given me a lot of trouble.

I shall have to revive Hilda, if it is possible.

I have doubts on the subject.

She refuses to keep herself in condition. She eats too much, she will not take a cold bath, she won’t train properly, she is sixty-eight pounds overweight, and she sleeps with her mouth open.

But she’s a good cook—”

“She is that,” Bill put in feelingly, with his memory on the shortcake.

“—and I trust she has not expired.

There is my father, too.

To put it mildly, he is a weakling.

His lack of wind is deplorable.

He sits down immediately after eating.

It is only three miles to his law office, and he rides.

He plays golf and calls it exercise.

If you have gagged him scientifically he may have ceased breathing by now. “In one way it would be nothing to grieve over, but he is my father after all, and the filial instinct impels me to his assistance against my better judgment.

You do not seem to be in good condition yourself.

I doubt if you know how to breathe properly, and it is evident that you do not train systematically.

There are books on the subject in the public library; I would advise you to get one.

You may give my name as a reference.

Now go.”

Bill went.

The door of the room was open.

He started toward the back stairs, but the major halted him abruptly and made him right about; she had switched on the lights in the hall.

Down the wide front staircase he tramped, and from behind came the major’s voice:

“Keep your mouth closed.

Head up!

Arms at your side.

Breathe through your nose.

Chest out forward!

Hep, hep, hep—the door swings in.

Leave it open.

Lift your foot and come down on the heel.

Turn the corner sharply.

Head up!”

She stood in the doorway as he marched across the porch, down the steps, and along the gravel path to the sidewalk.

A turn to the right, and thirty paces took him to the street corner.

Still the major’s voice sounded from the doorway:

“Hep, hep, hep—lift your feet higher—breathe through your nose—hep, hep, hep—”

And as he reached the street corner the command came sharply:

“Halt!

About face!

Salute!”

A glance over his shoulder showed him her nightgown framed in the doorway.

There were trees in between.

Bill halted, but he did not about face and he did not salute.

It was too much.

Instead, after a second’s hesitation, he bounded all at once into the street and across it, and was off like a shot.

And as he ran he replied to her command to salute by calling back over his shoulder, as man to man: