from Radio News
Mr. and Mrs. Brownlee Hold Hands
by Ellis Parker Butler
One evening when Mr. Murchison had seated himself in the smoking car, en route from New York to his home in Westcote, his radio-enthusiastic neighbor Brownlee came and sat beside him.
"Hello, Murchison," Mr. Brownlee said; "How is your radio working these days?"
"Brownlee," said Murchison, frowning. "I wish you would not talk about radio to me. It annoys me, Brownlee. But if you must know, Brownlee, my radio is not working at all these days. You know very well. Brownlee, that the last time you were in my house you tried some silly stunt and wired Mrs. Bimberry's ankle to the radiator, and my wife has not spoken to me since. I have not been near my radio, Brownlee, since that night. In my opinion, Brownlee, radio has caused enough trouble in my family."
Mr. Brownlee, who remembered the night of Mr. Murchison's radio party quite well, blushed, but he was a genuinely enthusiastic radio lover and after a moment he said:
"If you will pardon me for saying so, Murchison. that trouble was not the fault of the radio. Radio never causes trouble. Radio brings peace and happiness into the home."
"You mean," said Mr. Murchison, "that my wife allowed herself to -- ah -- to become irritated."
"That is exactly what I do mean." said Brownlee frankly. "And I say so because nothing of that sort ever happens in my home. Night after night my wife and I sit before our loudspeaker, often holding hands as we did when we were young lovers, and listen to the soothing strains of sweet music as they come to us through the air. Even if I have been irritated by business cares and my wife has come home a little cross from some quarrel at her club, the music soothes and delights us and we are more loving and amiable than ever before. I do hate to think that you have given up radio, Murchison! I wish you could see how it warms and softens the hearts of my dear Sophia and myself -- how we sit there evening after evening --"
He stopped short and slapped Mr. Murchison on the knee.
"Say!" he exclaimed enthusiastically; "You've got to come over this very evening! It is going to be a great evening! Do you know what WPX is broadcasting tonight? Why, man, WPX is broadcasting the Benk-Coogan prize fight right from the ringside!"
"You don't say!" exclaimed Mr. Murchison. "By George, that ought to be great! What time --"
The result of this conversation was that shortly after dinner Mr. Murchison coughed gently and told his wife he believed he would run over to Brownlee's for an hour or so if she did not mind.
"I would far rather you went there than that you brought him here," said Mrs. Murchison coldly, and Mr. Murchison put on his coat and hat and went over to Brownlee's. When the maid ushered him into the library, where Brownlee's radio was installed, no one was there.
"Mr. Brownlee said, sir," the maid told him, "that I should tell you he had just gone out for some cigars, but he will be back soon. Mrs. Brownlee is not home; she went out auto-riding with Mrs. Bimberry and stopped there for dinner."
Brownlee returned almost immediately. He handed Mr. Murchison one of the cigars and told him to light up, and lit a cigar himself.
"I'm sorry my wife is not home," Murchison." he said. "This prize fight is going to be great, but what I really wanted was for you to see how two reasonable people can get pleasure out of the radio, even if they are man and wife. Hello; look at the time the fight ought to be beginning."
Mr. Murchison dropped into a chair and Brownlee, with the deft fingers of an expert, manipulated the dials. When he had keyed in at 360 meters the voice of WPX's announcer came from the loudspeaker with admirable distinctness:
"This is WPX, broadcasting the Benk-Coogan fight from the ringside, AKG announcing," said the voice: "The huge auditorium is filled to its utmost capacity; I notice many of the notables of the sporting world present; Butcher Benk has just climbed into the ring -- you can hear the cheering. He is bowing to his friends. The louder cheering you hear now is for Farmer Coogan -- he has just entered the ring and has thrown off his bathrobe. Both men seem to be in prime condition. Benk is now leaning over the ropes to shake hands with Gus Tubbert, the promoter of the fight. Now Mr. Tubbert is shaking hands with Coogan. Benk's trainer has drawn him into a corner of the ring and is whispering in his -- "
"Edward!" said a voice from the doorway somewhat sharply, but Mr. Brownlee did not turn.
"Keep still, please, Sophia," said Mr. Brownlee pleasantly, "the fight is just beginning and we don't want to miss anything."
"Edward," said Mrs. Brownlee a little more sharply, "will you please pay me enough attention to notice who I have with me?"
"Sophia," said Mr. Brownlee, "I don't want to seem rude, but when you talk I can't hear what --"
At that moment a haughty voice from tin-hall said:
"I think I had better not stay, Sophia dear, evidently your husband is so deeply engaged that he cannot spare time to --"
"Jane! What nonsense!" cried Mrs. Brownlee. "I invited you here to hear Dora Dovell read her poems and you shall not be disappointed! Edward, Mrs. Bimberry has come to hear Dora Dovell read her poems over the radio."
Mr. Brownlee turned and saw Westcote's society leader entering the library.
"Butcher Benk and Farmer Coogan have now stepped to their corners. This is WPX, broadcasting from the ringside. Bud Griffin, the sport writer of the Star, will now describe the fight for you, round by round and blow for blow. I introduce Bud Griffin --"
"How-do-you-do, Mrs. Griffin," said Brownlee and hastily corrected himself; "I mean Mrs. Bimberry. Just in time! The fight is just beginning."
It was, indeed.
"Fight!" exclaimed Mrs. Brownlee. "Do you think Mrs. Bimberry has come here to listen to a brutal, cruel prize fight, Edward Brownlee?"
"Sophia," said Mr. Brownlee, "I asked Murchison to come here and listen in this evening. If you think two red-blooded men are going to sit here and listen to a wishy-washy poetess read her silly poems --"
"Coogan and Benk shake hands," shouted the radio. "They go to their corners. The gong rings. Coogan jumps to the center of the ring. Benk comes forward crouching. Coogan swings with his right. The blow --"
"-- as sweet as buds in April dew
Responsive flows from me to you,
And gentle as a cooing dove
The echo murmurs 'This is love!'"
It was the honey-sweet voice of the peerless poetess, Dora Dovell, for Mrs. Brownlee had touched the dial and changed the wavelength to 400, which was that of the admirable station KZKX from which the peerless poetess was broadcasting. A dark frown gathered on the brow of Mr. Brownlee; he put his hand over the hand of Sophia.
"Let go," he whispered tensely. "I'll not! I'll not!" whispered Mrs. Brownlee.
"Ah! dearer far than precious stones" (said the poetess).
"I love the song thy voice intones.
And quickly to thy arms I fly
"Coogan biffs him in the eye," shouted Bud Griffin, as Mr. Brownlee twisted the wavelength back to 360. "Benk uppercuts to the ear. Coogan feints with his left and drives his right to Benk's ribs. They clinch. They break apart --"
"And oh, the parting wrings my heart!" murmured the soulful poetess.
"To part! Ah, this is sad indeed
When closer union is cur need,
But still in peace my eyes I'll close
"Coogan reaches Butcher's nose," shouted Griffin from the ringside; "The Butcher replies with a short jab to the stomach. Coogan spars. Benk rushes --"
"Edward; Edward Brownlee, let go of this dial!" exclaimed Mrs. Brownlee, tugging at it.
"Everybody is becoming excited," declared Bud Griffin from the ringside. "The contestants seem to be angry."
"I'll not let go! I own this radio, don't I?" demanded Mr. Brownlee. "What do you think this is?"
"This is station KZKX," said the radio, "ABJ announcing. The next selection by Miss Dora Dovell, the soul poet, will be --"
"End of round one," declared Bud Griffin, broadcasting at 360 meter wavelength from the ringside.
"I think it is a most shameful piece of behavior, that's what I think, Edward Brownlee," said Mrs. Brownlee. "If I cannot bring a friend to this house --"
"And what about my friend?" demanded Mr. Brownlee angrily. "I've no rights in my own house, I suppose! A nice piece of business if I invite a friend here and set the radio working and you can rush in and cut off what we want to hear and turn on a lot of mush -- yes, mush! that's what I said! I said mush, Mrs. Brownlee! A lot of pifflicated poetic mush! It's getting so, nowadays, a man has no rights in his own home --"
"Edward Brownlee! Stop right there! That's enough!
"Round two!" cried Bud Griffin. "Both scrappers still in good condition. As the gong rings --"
"The daisies and the violets
Leap up to greet the Spring," murmured the poet of the soul.
"Slush!" cried Mr. Brownlee bitterly twisting the dial. "Slush!"
"Edward Brownlee, I will not have you talking that way about Mrs. Bimberry's favorite poetess!" cried Mrs. Brownlee
"I think, perhaps, I'll go now," said the meek Mr. Murchison.
"You'll do nothing of the kind!" declared Brownlee angrily. "You'll stay, and you'll hear what you came here to hear -- a prize fight and not mushy mush! It's about time I showed who is master in this house, once and for all! Sophia, take your hand off that dial! Do you hear me? Once! Twice! For the third and last time --"
"I'll not! I asked Mrs. Bimberry to come here --"
Mr. Murchison got out of his chair and moved delicately toward the door, like a cat walking on ice.
"I really think I'd better be going," he said, coughing his apologetic little cough. "I left my wife all alone -- so many burglars about these days -- letter to mail -- expecting a telegram -- really must be getting along --"
In her easy chair the haughty Mrs. Bimberry sat with sternly compressed lips. She did not mean to desert her dear friend Sophia -- a member of her own sex -- who was doing battle for her. Mr. Murchison might run but she did not mean to run. She cast a glance at Brownlee that let him know quite plainly what she thought of his behavior. Brownlee gave the dial knob one last vicious twist.
"Benk sends a jarring wallop to Coogan's chest," shouted WPX.
"For the third and last time, Sophia. I ask you -- will you take your hand from this dial?" Brownlee asked in a dangerously quiet voice. For answer Mrs. Brownlee twisted the dial knob.
"Say Nay, my Soul! Say Nay, my Heart!
Say Nay, and ever Nay!" the poetess of the soul responded.
"Very well, then! said Brownlee, releasing his wife's hand. "Very well! You may have this radio. I give it to you. What I think of this behavior I shall not say, for I am a gentleman. I will leave you to listen to your mushy poetess, Sophia, and you need not wait up for me. I am going to the club, where a man has some rights. But this I will say, Sophia -- never, although I live to be a thousand years old, will I listen to a poetess of the soul!"
When Brownlee and Murchison stood in the street their silence was, for a while, awkward. It did not seem to Murchison that he ought to say anything about the way in which Mr. and Mrs. Brownlee had held hands, and yet he did think he ought to say something for he knew Brownlee must be feeling rather cut up. So he said what he had wished to say all evening.
"Brownlee," he said, "I'm very sorry to have been the cause of this quarrel, because I would have much preferred to hear Dora Dovell. To tell you the truth, Brownlee, she is my favorite poet, and I am passionately -- yes, passionately -- fond of her poems."
"Great Scott!" exclaimed Brownlee. "If that's so why don't you go in the house again and hear her?"
But Murchison did not go in the house again, and it would not have done him any good if he had gone, for -- as soon as the two men had closed the front door -- Mrs. Bimberry had spoken to Mrs. Brownlee:
"Let's listen to the prize fight; I'd much rather hear the prize fight, Sophia."
"So would I," said Mrs. Brownlee truthfully.