Sister Billie looked at me with unmistakable admiration. She then threw back her head and laughed so heartily that I found myself joining in. "Never," cried Sister Billie, "have I seen the Love Laughers' philosophy grasped so quickly. Brother Phipps, I am convinced that you have a call for our great work. Now I am on a mission to win converts in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and on Prince Edward Island. I invite you to join me! Do you have traveler's checks?"
"I have ample funds," I vouchsafed, so caught up by the sheer magnetism of Sister Billie Beaver that I had completely forgotten that even now I was on my way abroad without Mother's specific permission. Happily, at this instant, something happened that brought me to my senses—thanks, in my view, to the first objective of my pilgrimage, i.e. my visit to L. L. Bean's store at Freeport, Me.
Upon hearing that I was not without resources, Sister Billie jumped to her feet with the loudest laughter I had yet heard from her. Trays clattered to the floor all along the steam-table line as startled diners turned to look. I myself was hurled back from my chair as Sister Billie's sudden leap overturned the table, emptying the contents of my tray (scrambled eggs and kippers) into my lap.
"Bless you, Brother Phipps!" cried Sister Billie Beaver, peering down at me over the table's edge. "I hereby joyfully receive you into the Love Laughers by virtue of the authority vested in me by Bishop 'Tex' Mitchell, our beloved leader and president emeritus of Panhandle Divinity College. Your name will be laughingly mentioned in the next broadcast by Bishop Tex' over the 500,000-watt radio station in his Mexican sanctuary! Come, Brother Phipps, on your feet, man! Let us repair to the observation lounge and put your signature on the traveler's checks that we shall airmail to the bishop as a free-will offering!" She turned to the astonished passengers and shouted: "Everyone now! Join me in singing from page 49 of our hymn book, Always Leave Them Laughing When You Say Good-bye, by the late George M. Cohan!"
Sister Billie burst into the song and, incredibly, some of the diners joined in. While they were all thus distracted, I crept away on all fours. My new flannel (and zippered) trousers were a complete mess of eggs and kippers.
Safe in my cabin, I sought first to remove my trousers. Then, to my dismay, I found I could not budge the zipper. It had been fouled by a kipper. I started to ring for a steward, but so great was my discomfiture, that I thought better of it. How I wished that I had worn one of Father's button trousers. Obviously the trousers must be removed. But how, how? I hurried to my things and searched feverishly for the L. L. Bean fishing knife. I found it, opened the long gleaming blade and in the twinkling I had cut the entire zipper area from the Bean pants and donned a pair of Father's button variety!
I hid in my cabin for the rest of the voyage. I could hear Sister Billie Beaver's shouts of "Brother Phipps! Brother Phipps!" But I was determined, now that my mind had been cleared by the zipper episode, to have nothing more to do with the woman. The more I thought about her eagerness to get her hands on my traveler's checks and her outlandish "laugh crusade," the more convinced I was that she was not the innocent she appeared to be. I now suspect, Bayard, that she was an international agent of some sort, assigned to keep me under surveillance as a Harvard man abroad.
I remained in my cabin during the 90 minutes the Bluenose remained in port, and although my view of Nova Scotia was limited to what I could see from my porthole (I spied a scowling Billie Beaver on the wharf), I reflected with satisfaction that I had been abroad and had made my L. L. Bean pilgrimage as a memorial to Father. All in all, I think that you and your sister Lodge will be forced to admit that my adventure was somewhat more meaningful than your own pilgrimage to the Delaware Water Gap, which is now considered old hat by those of us who are seasoned travelers. But keep up the good work.
With warm regards,
Phipps Piper, '14,
New York, N.Y.,