Cynthia Steps Out

Cynthia Steps Out
Author: Berry Erick
Title: Cynthia Steps Out
Release Date: 2016-10-02
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 22
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Title page

The Goldsmith Publishing

Copyright, 1937, by
Made in U. S. A.


IAlways Trust Your Luck11
II Corned Beef Hash42
III Cold-in-the-Head69
IV Little Miss Fix-it99
 Mont St. Michel 
V The Cuckoo127
 Basque Country 
VI Romance in Carcassonne158
VII The Racing Snail190
VIII All Is Not Lost219




It must be fun to be an artist.” Stasia’sspeech was somewhat impeded by the mouthfulof pins she was trying not to swallow.

“Fun?” Cynthia frowned, thinking. “Yes,I suppose it is. I wouldn’t know how to be anythingelse. Ouch! That was me you were pinning.”She braced herself with one arm againstthe bulkhead as the ship tipped at a slight angle.“Make that sleeve as short as you can.”

Stasia took the last pin out of her mouth.“Slip off your blouse now, and I’ll baste it up foryou. You’ll make a sweet pirate, if pirates everwere sweet.”

Cynthia, free of the blouse, turned to experimentbefore the long mirror in the door, hesitatingbetween the respective merits of a red bandanahandkerchief over her black curls and themore sinister effect of a black scarf which could12be continued down into a black mask with eyeholes.

Stasia bit off her thread. “There, that’sready. When will you break it to Miss Mitchallthat she’s got to wear a costume tonight?”

Cynthia giggled. “You ought to come alongand help me. But I guess I’ll wait till the lastminute and rush her into the idea.” She glancedtoward the bed where a tall, witch’s cap, madeof green cardboard from the ship’s barber shop,reposed beside a cape of green broadcloth, borrowedfrom Stasia, and a pair of Miss Mitchall’sown shoes, now adorned with huge buckles ofcardboard and silver foil.

“I’ll need some help with my wig,” saidStasia, “and then I think we’re all finished.”The wig was of bright orange yarn, looselyknitted into a tight fitting cap of coarse netwhich completely covered Stasia’s sleek bob.

“It needs tightening at the back. Wait amoment.” Cynthia braced her feet. “Dashthis boat, I hope she stops rolling before dinneror we shan’t have any dance. Do they alwayshave a costume party every trip?”

“Uh-huh. Always the second day before we13get into Cherbourg, Paris, day after tomorrow.Aren’t you thrilled?”

Cynthia, pinning the wig into a better fit,murmured a vague assent. But she didn’t feelat all thrilled. After eight days the ship waslike another home in which she knew, by sightat least, almost every occupant. Paris was goingto be new and strange. Oh yes, a grand newadventure, but sometimes she got scared at thethought of it. So big, with all the street signsand the menus in a different language and somuch that was new to learn. What if she failedto make good on the job that had brought herover, the dozen covers for Little Ones’ Magazine?Suppose she didn’t have the money tostay? Suppose she couldn’t make people understandher French, even though Stasia had beencoaching her all week? Oh shut up, Cynthia!

“Miss Mitchall’s the old girl I admire,” shesaid suddenly. “She’s got more courage! Youknow she’s returning practically without a joband without money and she’s fifty if she’s a day,though she looks sixty, poor darling. I don’tbelieve she’s got ten dollars beyond her fare toLondon.”

14“What was she doing in the States?” askedStasia.

Stasia hadn’t, Cynthia thought, much imagination,but perhaps that was because her fatherwas president of the line. Look at this suite deluxe, the best in the ship. And if she had neverearned her own living she couldn’t imagine whatit was to be like Miss Mitchall.

“Oh, she had some sort of a governess job.But she’s English you know, and she didn’t comein on the quota and so she had to go back home.She was with a Canadian family in Buffalo.They are paying her fare back, but that’s all. Iwish ...” she stopped. She was going to sayshe wished she could help her.

Stasia looked at her watch, the little platinumwatch circled with diamonds. “It’s six my dear,and dinner’s at half past seven. If you’re goingto get your roommate into her costume ...”

“You’re right, you’re perfectly right.” Cynthiastruggled into her wool dress, grabbed theblack scarf, the buckled shoes, threw the blouseover her arm. “Here, give me a hand with theother stuff, will you? I’ll take the hat.”

Cynthia’s small cabin was down, down, two15steep flights below the cabins de luxe. Cleanwhite corridors smelling of soap and sea andship, doors shut and white, doors open and dark,doors open and lighted, a narrow corridor turningdown to the left, two doors facing eachother, the left one always closed. Cynthia oftenwondered about that door. She knew the cabinwas occupied because the room steward went inand out but no one else ever did. The door tothe right was Cynthia’s and Miss Mitchall’s.

“Here we are. Thanks a lot. Can I help withmake-up or anything?” Cynthia dumped herthings on the bunk, turned on the lights.

“No, thanks. The stewardess and Lilia willhelp if I want it.” Lilia was Stasia’s maid.Cynthia smiled. Think of having a maid toyourself!

Stasia was gone. Cynthia hustled out of herdress again, turned on the hot water, whistledhappily. This was going to be fun tonight.Like the old Art Academy days when everybodydressed up and the dances lasted till morning.

Someone in the cabin across the corridorcoughed, a man’s cough. Cynthia turned offthe hot water and listened, caught herself staring16with wide gray eyes at the wide gray eyesin the mirror over the wash basin.

The night she had come on board that lefthand door had been wide open and in the corridorthere had been a suitcase, big and black, withlots of stickers on it. Cynthia hurrying alongthe hall with an arm full of last minute fruitand flowers and books, Chick and Judy and theothers of the old Art School bunch at her heels,had tripped and fallen full length over that suitcase.When Chick had picked her up, unhurt,and brushed her off, she had noted the suitcaseand a huge Ottawa Hotel paster on its side,bright with greens and blues and oranges. Chickhad noticed it too. “A good poster design, that,”he had said.

And Cynthia, thinking about Chick, sat downon the lower bunk and for three minutes wasdevastatingly and overwhelmingly homesick forNew York and the studio, for Judy and Chick.Chick had, in this very room, standing on thatvery same rug, kissed her good-bye with his armstight around her and wished her good luck andtold her how rotten it was for him to have tostay behind like this. “Keep my ring on your17finger and my face in your heart,” he had said.

Cynthia twisted the pretty emerald, whichhad belonged to Chick’s mother, now so ill thathe couldn’t get away for the trip they hadplanned together. It was a sweet ring. Cynthia’seyes were getting teary when the dressinggong sounded. Goodness, was it as late as that!

The pirate costume had long black trousers—fullones from Cynthia’s beach pyjamas. Awide sash of twisted red and green bristled withan arsenal of silver paper pistols and knives.The white blouse, with sleeves tacked very short,bore a black silk skull and crossbones overthe heart. She was tying heavy thread on brasscurtain rings to loop over her ears when MissMitchall pattered in, closing the door gentlybehind her.

Miss Mitchall’s small sloping shoulders,claw-like hands and thin blond hair, now a dustygray, were the characteristics of the story-bookEnglish governess, but her eyes gleamedbrightly behind her spectacles and one felt thather spirit was unconquerable.

“Oh my dear, how sweet you look,” she twittered.

18Cynthia hung an earring over one ear andpatted it with a slim finger to see if it wouldswing free. In a minute she’d have to break thenews to her roommate. But Miss Mitchall hadnews of her own.

“I just heard a voice across the corridor, talkingto the steward. It’s a man and he talks witha Canadian accent,” she whispered.

They had both wondered about that room,for on this small ship everyone seemed to knoweveryone else, with that exception. Was he ill,perhaps, that he never came out, not even formeals? But there wasn’t time to discuss himnow.

“Hurry and get into your costume for theparty,” directed Cynthia.

“Costume? Oh yes.” Miss Mitchall wasgoing to appreciate the small jest. “You meanmy black dress.” She turned, bustling a little,to put her purse and book and scarf and sweateron the long couch beneath the porthole.

“No, I don’t mean just the black dress,”stated Cynthia in what she hoped was a firmtone. “I mean your costume. Stasia Carruthersand I made one for you this afternoon.19You’re going as a Green Witch. See here.”She took down the tall peaked hat, clapped it onthe small gray head and turned her roommateto face the mirror. “Then the cape, like this.”She flung the long cape around the thin shoulders.“Of course we must make you up. A littlepowder on your nose, probably some rouge onyour cheeks. But put on your black dress first.And hurry.”

“Oh my dear, I couldn’t—I’m too old—whatwill people think?” Mildly clucking, continuingto protest, Miss Mitchall was shovedinto her costume, into the shoes with the silverbuckles, into the long green cape. Cynthia,against the other’s mild opposition, patted rougeon the pale cheeks, then flung a towel over thecape and shook half a box of white talcum powderon the gray hair.

“But my dear,” beamed Miss Mitchall, “it... it makes me look so ... so young.”

Indeed it did. The contrast of green clothagainst the white hair was dramatic. “Very successful,”purred Cynthia. “You’ll be the belleof the ball. And it’s not immoral to look youngyou know. Now sit down there and be good till20I get this scarf tied. Or no, ring for the steward,we must get a broom to go with the witch.”

By the time they hurried out of their cabinthe echoes of the dinner gong had been dead forten minutes. But the corridors were full oflaughing groups: harlequins, monks, pierrots,Turkish ladies, Dutch girls and nondescriptcostumes that defied a label. For fear that theGreen Witch might bolt back to the cabin,Cynthia kept close behind her but after a fewminutes realized this was unnecessary. Theirpassage was a minor triumphal procession foreveryone turned to look at them and made somedelighted exclamation over the novel costumes.Cynthia was amused to note that Miss Mitchall’ssharp little chin went higher, her stepbecame firmer as the approbation grew and bythe time they reached the stairway to the diningsaloon she walked like a princess approachingher throne.

Cheers and a spatter of applause greetedtheir descent and three tables claimed their companybut Cynthia looked around and made aquick decision. In a far corner sat HarveyO’Neill, as the Tin Woodman, and Johnnie21Graham, in sackcloth and straw, presumably ascarecrow. Miss Mitchall needed what onlyan Irish tongue could supply. Cynthia steeredtoward the small table.

“May I introduce the Green Witch of GreenwichVillage?” sang Cynthia above the hubbub.“Did you know that Green Witches had specialmagic and charms, much stronger than blackand white ones?”

“Special charms, certainly,” agreed the Irishman.“Come and cast a spell on me, MissWitch,” and he pulled out a chair for her. Cynthiatook the one next to Johnnie.

“Smart of you,” he whispered in her ear,“to give her a costume that went with her specs.It’s one of the best on the floor.”

There was an almost continual pageant downthe wide stairs. Stasia made her entrance aloneand effectively in the long, slinky costume of amodern French doll. From the bright orangewig of knitted yarn, through the high bodice andlong full skirt of brilliant reds and raw bluesto the absurdly high heeled slippers of greensatin and the painted circles on her cheeks beneaththe wide lashed

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