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The Bishop's Jaegers


Thorne Smith



PETER'S descent into the front hall fortunately went unnoticed. More guests had arrived, and more guests were due to arrive. It was this latter possibility that brought Peter to a full and blinding realization of his position. For the first time he saw himself as indubitably he would appear in the eyes of others. He saw himself not as an innocent man seeking justice, but simply as a stark naked coffee importer, dazzlingly greeting his guests at the doors of his ancestral home. The picture was somewhat too vivid for his nerves. He delivered the soul of his craven attacker into the arms of divine retribution and flung himself into the clothes closet a split second before Sanders appeared to answer the summons of the doorbell.

Reaching out in the darkness, Peter's hand groped horrifyingly over a face. Now this is a decidedly disagreeable experience, perhaps one of the most disagreeable in the world. It is especially so when one is under the impression that there are no faces about. Even married people, after long years of propinquity, are frequently revolted when in the still hours of the night they inadvertently extend a hand and find themselves fumbling drowsily with the face of a mate. The same holds true even of one's mistress. One receives quite an unpleasant shock. With other parts of the body it is not so bad, but with the face, yes. It was certainly so with Peter. Had it not been for his nakedness, he would have emitted scream upon scream. Little Arthur, too, was far from well.

'Who are you?' demanded Peter, his voice hoarse with consternation.

'I'm Little Arthur,' chattered a voice in the darkness. 'You know, mister, the guy you was chasing.'

If it had not been for the fact that every instinct in Peter's being cried out against further association with any part of Little Arthur, the man would have been strangled there and then in the blackness of the closet.

'Sorry I squirted the water on you, mister,' the little dip began in mollifying accents.

'It doesn't matter really,' said Peter with false politeness. 'I was going to take a shower, anyway. May I ask, though, what you were doing in my room?'

'I'm a burglar,' replied Little Arthur, too depressed to be other than truthful. 'But I wasn't looking for anything valuable. Only a pair of drawers.'

'If only I had a pair myself!' muttered Peter. 'And to think that just this morning I had more drawers than I needed—more than I could comfortably wear. What are you doing in here, Little Arthur?'

'The same thing as you, sir. Keeping out of the public eye.'

A moment's silence, then Peter's voice, nervously: 'You seem to be in front of me, and yet I distinctly feel you breathing heavily on my back. How do you manage that?'

'I'm not doing it, mister,' said Little Arthur. 'I ain't got strength enough left to do any breathing at all.'

'No?' replied Peter, turning. 'That's funny. Oh, my God! I'm surrounded.'

He had thrust one of his fingers into Josephine's mouth, and she had instinctively bitten it for lack of anything better to do.

'Remove your finger from my mouth this instant,' she gabbled furiously.

Peter's hand was quicker than the eye.

'What are you doing in here with Little Arthur?' he demanded, nursing his damaged finger.

'I hadn't thought of doing anything with Little Arthur,' Jo retorted. 'Don't even know what to do with myself, much less with any one else. He must have come in here after me.'

'The dirty little crook!' said Peter. 'I'll strangle him with these two bare hands right here in cold blood.'

Little Arthur closed his eyes, yet still saw two bare hands floating through the darkness.

'Go on and do it,' urged Josephine. 'There are too many of us in this closet already.'

'I don't want to be in here alone with you,' Peter told her. 'And the dead body of a criminal, perhaps.'

'It won't make any difference so long as the body is good and dead,' Jo explained.

'Oh, what a terrible woman!' Little Arthur chattered from his corner. 'Where did she come from?'

'Don't know why you followed her in the first place,' said Peter.

'I won't ever again,' vowed the little man. 'Didn't even know she was here.'

'He's a nasty little liar,' whispered Josephine. 'He deliberately came in after me.'

'Don't you believe her, mister,' Little Arthur pleaded. 'She's trying to turn you against me just as we were getting along, like. I know her game.'

'Shut up, you rat!' the girl flung at him. 'I'll claw your wicked tongue out.'

'Don't let her at me, please, mister,' Little Arthur put in. 'She wants to get us both in trouble.'

'We are in trouble,' Peter reminded him. 'Terrible trouble. Suppose some one should come barging into this closet?'

'I'll swear I was lured in,' said Jo.

'On what pretext?' Peter demanded.

'A fur coat,' she answered readily.

'Wouldn't speak well for your morals,' he snapped.

'Nor any better for yours,' she replied. 'But if you don't like that, I'll say that the two of you dragged me in.'

'Wouldn't put it past her, mister,' warned Little Arthur. 'She's a bad one, she is. Glad I can't see her.'

'You horrid little crook!' shrilled Jo. 'Where do you get off?'

I'll have to ask you both to shut up,' said Peter. 'You'll be having the whole damn house in.'

'Oh, dear,' murmured Jo. 'Here I am cooped up in a closet with a naked man and a thief. I don't know which way to turn.'

'Well, don't turn this way,' said Peter. 'And how do you know I'm naked? Oh, for God's own sake, is that your hand? I've been thinking it was mine all the time. I'm so upset. No wonder you know how I am.'

In the darkness Jo laughed evilly.

'I saw your impassioned entrance,' she gloated.

'If you don't keep your hands off, you'll see my impassioned exit,' he retorted.

'All women seem ter be loose,' muttered Little Arthur moodily, his thoughts reverting to Martha and the harem. 'Weren't like that when I was a boy.'

'You're no bigger than a nipper now,' retorted Jo.

'Perhaps not,' said the pickpocket, 'but I got more sense. Why don't you keep your bold hands off the gentleman? He don't understand your common ways.'

'I'll make them unmistakable,' said the girl.

'What are we going ter do, mister?' Little Arthur asked hopelessly. 'There ain't no good in her.'

'Why don't you do something?' demanded Peter. 'You got me into this.'

'No, I didn't,' the pickpocket protested. 'I was trying to get away and you insisted on following me.'

'Naturally,' replied Peter.

'Must have wanted me mighty bad,' observed Little Arthur, 'to have followed me in your condition.'

'I wanted to kill you,' admitted Peter, 'and I'm not at all sure I won't.'

'Don't think about it any more,' said Little Arthur soothingly.

'My, you're thin,' said Jo in a surprised voice.

'Take your hand from my ribs,' Peter commanded. 'Haven't you any shame?'

'No,' answered Jo promptly. 'Not since you started in. This morning in the office you try to take off your drawers. On the way home you practically assaulted me in the subway. And now to cap the damn climax you follow me nakedly into a dark closet. How do you expect a girl to have any shame left when you act like that?'

'Is that right, lady?' asked Little Arthur, thinking that indeed he had got himself into bad company. 'Did he do all them things, taking off his drawers and all?'

'Sure, I'm right,' said Jo. 'It was just his drawers this morning. That seemed to satisfy him. Now it's all or nothing. Don't know what he'll think of doing next.'

'Hope he stops thinking altogether if he's going ter carry on like that,' said Little Arthur, making no attempt to disguise his disappointment in Peter.

'Some one will have to do some inspired brainwork to think us out of this place,' Peter announced to his unseen companions.

'Does your spine begin there?' Josephine suddenly asked in an interested voice.

'No,' replied Peter passionately. 'That's where it ends.'

'Oh,' said the girl rather hurriedly. 'I'm sorry.'

'Then why don't you keep your hands to yourself?' demanded Peter.

'Thank Gord it's dark in here,' murmured Little Arthur. 'I wouldn't know where to look if it wasn't.'

'Throw the little beggar out on his ear,' urged Jo.

'Think I'll get out myself, naked as I am,' declared Peter. 'It's better than staying in here and being explored like a map.'

For some minutes Sanders had been evincing an unusual interest in the closet. Aunt Sophie, sailing from the drawing-room with a group of guests at her elbows, chief among whom was Yolanda, actually saw the man with his ear almost if not quite pressed to the door.

'What on earth are you doing there, Sanders?' she inquired fussily. 'You look as if you had seen a ghost.'

Sanders nodded his sleek head wisely.

'I believe I'm hearing them, madam,' he vouchsafed in a low voice. 'This closet suddenly seems to be endowed with the gift of speech.'

'Nonsense!' the splendid lady tossed out. 'You're running down, Sanders. Closets don't talk.'

'This one does,' Sanders assured her. 'It carries on a three-cornered conversation in as many different voices, madam. One sounds strangely like a woman's.'

'What?' exclaimed Aunt Sophie. 'A woman in that closet? That is queer.'

'Perhaps Sanders had better look,' Yolanda Wilmon suggested. 'Sneak thieves, you know.'

'Sneak thieves are not given to holding animated conversations in closets,' objected Mr. Prescott Gates, who, because of his remote connection with a law firm, felt that his knowledge of sneak thieves was more extensive than the others.

'We're not acquainted with the habits of sneak thieves,' Yolanda contributed coldly. 'However, I do believe that closet should be investigated. There are several valuable furs inside.'

'By all means,' agreed Miss Sophie Van Dyck. 'Open the door immediately, Sanders.'

But the door, when Sanders endeavoured to carry out this order, seemed inclined to argue the point. For several moments it quivered elastically like a thing of life and purpose in the hands of the butler; then, with a groan of utter despair which sounded hollowly in the hall, it flew partly open. Sanders recoiled as if from the pit of hell itself. Instantly the door closed of its own volition with a bang of remonstrance. Inarticulate sounds issued from the closet, sounds of whining protest.

'What on earth is it, Sanders?' Aunt Sophie demanded in a strained voice. 'Sounds like an animal.'

'Must I say, Miss Van Dyck?' asked Sanders in a cornered voice.

'Certainly you must,' she retorted. 'What would Mr. Peter think if he came home and found his closet full of strangers? He dislikes things like that.'

Wondering in a dazed sort of way what things could be even remotely like the things he had momentarily glimpsed, Sanders looked speculatively at the door.

'Hurry, Sanders. What's inside?' Yolanda Wilmot asked insistently.

'Well, madam,' said Sanders reluctantly, 'there seems to be more in there than valuable furs at the moment. Looked like quite a gathering to me.'

'Tell them to come out this instant,' Miss Van Dyck commanded.

'I'd hardly suggest that, madam,' said Sanders in a shocked voice.

'Here, Sanders,' put in Prescott Gates. 'I'll handle this situation. I'll jolly well make them come out, whoever they are.'

I strongly advise against it, sir,' said Sanders. 'Not with the ladies present, if I may say so.'

'What on earth, Sanders?' exclaimed a young and rather swagger-looking maiden whose eyes gave the impression of having seen about all there was to be seen in life. 'Just for that I'll never leave until that closet has given up its dead.'

'Why not tell us, Sanders,' remarked a stout lady in cascades of lace, 'exactly what you saw, and then let us decide?'

'Yes,' agreed Aunt Sophie. 'We're growing decidedly impatient with all this beating about the bush. Speak up, man!'

'Well,' began the butler in a voice of academic detachment, 'you see, there seems to be an entirely naked gentleman in that closet—'

Impossible!' exclaimed Miss Van Dyck.

'I very much wish it were, madam,' Sanders continued piously. 'But that's not all. This gentleman has either been undressed by a lady or, having undressed himself, is about to undress her.'

'Need you be so graphic?' inquired Yolanda.

'The picture was remarkably vivid,' explained the butler.

'I wonder where they think they are?' Aunt Sophie wondered aloud.

'Certainly not at a private reception,' observed the lacy lady, regarding the door with thoughtful eyes. 'That is, not at a nice reception.'

'What can they be doing in that closet?' Aunt Sophie continued, bemused.

'Practically anything by now,' said the girl with the worldly eyes. 'Especially if the gentleman has succeeded in carrying out his intentions.'

'You mean in that closet?' Yolanda demanded incredulously.

'What's wrong with the closet?' demanded the other girl philosophically. 'Many have managed with less.'

'What a shocking situation!' murmured the lace-bedecked lady. 'Shouldn't something be done? Can't you speak to them, Sanders—admonish them?'

'Certainly, madam,' replied Sanders, his suavity re-gained. 'How would you suggest wording it?'

'Why, tell them to stop, of course,' Aunt Sophie snapped irritably.

'Stop what, madam,' the butler inquired.

'You can be most exasperating at times for a man of your age, Sanders,' Miss Van Dyck complained. 'Tell them to stop whatever they're doing.'

'But, madam,' the butler patiently explained, 'we're not sure just what they are doing. It would be pure speculation.'

'Not so pure at that,' put in the girl, 'but it does seem logical, doesn't it, Sanders?'

'I must confess, Miss Sedgwick,' said Sanders, with becoming modesty, 'I have never been in the same situation.'

'No more have I,' the girl retorted, 'but I can use my imagination.'

'I wish you wouldn't,' Yolanda remarked frigidly.

Mr. Prescott Gates now felt called upon once more to display his greater knowledge of the seamy side of life.

'If they are professional sneak thieves,' he advanced weightily, 'I hardly think they'd endanger their chances by that sort of nonsense.'

'What sort of nonsense?' Miss Sedgwick inquired with disarming innocence. 'And what makes you call it nonsense?'

'Don't answer her, Prescott,' said Yolanda.

'And all this time we're talking here,' Aunt Sophie burst forth in a tragic voice, 'God only knows what is going on inside that closet.'

'Perhaps only God should know,' replied the stout lady, with the resignation of a true believer.

'I have an idea,' Miss Sedgwick offered. 'Perhaps a man and wife wandered into that closet and not being able to find their way out became so exhausted—you know, so discouraged about it all—they just decided to go to bed.'

'Don't be childish, Madge Sedgwick,' Aunt Sophie scolded.

'Well, at least, I've got 'em married,' said the girl. 'That's more than any of you have done.'

'You said a "gentleman," Sanders,' Aunt Sophie went on in a worried voice to the butler. 'Are you sure he was a gentleman?'

'That's difficult to tell, madam,' said Sanders. 'He didn't have a stitch on.'

'I can well understand that,' Madge Sedgwick agreed sympathetically. 'Without any clothes on there's not a scrap of difference between a sneak thief and a gentleman.'

'I should think all naked men would look a little sneaky,' the lady in lace unhelpfully contributed.

"There should be some distinction,' Miss Van Dyck protested indignantly.

'Yes. It would be convenient on occasions to be able to tell at a glance,' Madge Sedgwick remarked as if to herself.

'What did he look like, Sanders?' Yolanda Wilmont demanded. 'Did you recognize his face?'

'I didn't see his face, Miss Yolanda,' the butler explained. 'What did you see?' asked Madge with lively interest.

'His back, miss,' said Sanders. 'He turned it rather briskly, I thought.'

'At least he had the instincts of a gentleman,' remarked the stout lady.

'Oh, I don't know,' Madge Sedgwick countered. 'Even a sneak thief might have his little qualms.'

'Did you recognize the woman?' Prescott Gates inquired.

'I got the impression I'd seen her before, sir,' admitted the butler. 'Looked very much like a young woman who was here a little earlier announcing she was in an interesting condition.'

'Sanders, you keep the most extraordinary things to yourself,' Aunt Sophie said with severity. 'Do you mean to say you put this person in that closet to bear her child?'

'No, madam,' Sanders smoothly replied. 'I rather concluded she'd left to commit suicide. She was inquiring about the rivers. I gave her adequate directions.'

'Maybe she came back to find out which was the deepest,' Madge Sedgwick suggested.

'Heavens on earth!' exclaimed Aunt Sophie distractedly. 'What are we going to do? Here we have a naked man in the closet and a woman going to have a baby or commit suicide or something even worse. Prescott, you're a man. Why don't you suggest something?'

'I'm going for a policeman,' Mr. Gates replied with surprising decision as he hurried to the door.

'Should think a preacher or a doctor would do better according to the circumstances,' Madge flung after him, but Mr. Gates was already gone.

'That tears it,' whispered Peter Van Dyck to his companions in the closet. 'That unweaned ass has gone to get a cop.'

'Gord!' breathed Little Arthur. 'There ain't a pair of drawers made that's worth a pinch.'

'Ah,' came the voice of Josephine, 'how about mine, Little Arthur?'

'Make her stop talking like that, mister,' the small thief asked in an injured voice. 'We're in a very bad spot.'

'Don't tell me,' said Peter. 'I know it already, and I'm going to get out of my section at once.'

'Don't mean ter say you're going out there in front of all them people the way you are?' the man inquired in an awed voice.

'Almost,' Peter told him. 'With the addition of this coat.'

Fumbling in the darkness, he seized the first coat his hands encountered and squeezed himself into it. Fortunately for Peter's self-assurance he was unable to see how he looked. He was wearing a fur coat belonging to his Aunt Sophie. It was short but luckily full.

'Wait a second,' said Josephine. 'You're not going to leave me alone in here with that dip. I'm going to disguise myself, too.'

'No fear,' shot back Little Arthur. 'I don't associate with the likes of you.'

'Oh!' cried Josephine, enraged. 'I'll strip him to the buff.'

'What's that?' asked Arthur anxiously.

'I don't know,' the girl replied, 'but it must be awful.'

'Will you two please stop bickering?' cut in Peter. 'Or wait until I've gone.'

'I'm ready,' said Jo. 'Go right ahead. I defy recognition.'

'What have you got on?' Peter was interested enough to inquire.

'Goggles and a long duster,' the girl said briefly.

'Let's change?' Peter suggested.

'Too late now,' she told him. 'We've got to hurry right along.'

'Don't leave me here alone,' Little Arthur pleaded.

'I'd like to leave you lifeless,' Jo informed him.

'Almost wish you would,' bleakly Arthur replied.

The policeman, followed importantly by Prescott Gates, arrived just in time to witness the emergence of Peter Van Dyck. What struck the officer as being especially remarkable about this odd affair was the length and bareness of Peter's legs. In real life Peter's legs were not really so bad. Though long and slim they were at least not distorted. They were just ordinary male legs, which are never much to get excited about. Now, however, protruding as they were from a woman's fur coat, they fairly screamed for attention. The officer's eyes responded. He could not recall ever having seen such peculiar-looking legs on either man or beast. In spite of this they seemed to carry their owner along busily enough as he made for the front staircase. Behind him trailed a strange object which at first glance did not appear to be entirely human. Josephine in goggles and duster hurried to the front door, where she was stopped by the officer, who told her, 'Oh, no, you don't!' in what can only be described as a nasty voice. Little Arthur, apparently preferring arrest to being left alone with his thoughts, brought up a shrinking rear. Walking nervously on tiptoe, he started to follow Peter. Aunt Sophie's voice stopped him. Aunt Sophie's voice stopped every one, in fact.

'Peter!' she cried. 'Peter!'

'Yes, Aunt Sophie,' Peter replied in a natural tone which contrasted strangely with his attire and which almost stupefied the policeman, who had expected something entirely different from such an object. 'Yes, Aunt Sophie. Were you calling me?'

'Peter,' continued the outraged lady, 'what in the world have you been up to?'

'Nothing at all, Auntie,' he assured her, growing more uncomfortably aware of a sea of upturned faces. 'Merely getting ready, you know. Making little arrangements.'

'Is that person following you?' Miss Van Dyck demanded, pointing a quivering finger at Little Arthur, shaking as unobtrusively as possible on the stairs.

Peter stared visibly. He found himself extremely nervous.

'What person?' he gasped; then, glancing back and encountering the mute appeal in the miserable little creature's eyes, his heart melted. 'Oh, that person,' he said hastily. 'Yes. He's following me—how do you do, everybody.' Here Peter thought it best to bow carelessly to those below him. 'Yes, Aunt Sophie,' he hurried on. 'He's following me. I asked him to. He's helping me to get ready. My new valet. Do you like him?'

'Decidedly not!' exploded Aunt Sophie. 'He has the face of a born criminal.'

'Say,' put in the policeman, 'how many more of you are there in that closet?'

'What, officer?' said Peter. 'How many more of me are there in that closet? No more at all. I'm the only one.'

'Does your nephew happen to be nuts, lady?' the policeman asked Miss Van Dyck.

'No,' Yolanda answered for the stunned woman, 'but I fear he's suffering a little from overwork.'

'Thank you, Yolanda,' called Peter, with a fearful smile.' But if you want to know, I'm suffering hideously from over-exposure.'

'The coat! The coat!' shouted Madge. 'It's slipping, Peter. Look out!'

Peter snatched at the coat in the nick of time, then waved lightly to the girl, who of all the group had not averted her eyes.

'Thanks, Madge,' he called. 'Wouldn't want that to happen.'

'I wasn't anxious about it for myself,' she replied. 'I was thinking of your aunt and Yolanda.'

'Thanks,' Yolanda told her. 'We are quite able to think for ourselves.'

'Oh, very well,' said Miss Sedgwick. 'I don't care if he takes it off altogether and dances like a savage.'

'No doubt,' said the other sweetly.

'If it's all the same to you ladies,' called Peter, 'I'd prefer to keep it on. And I don't feel like dancing.'

'My stockings! My stockings! They're gone!' burst suddenly from the object behind the goggles, making a frantic dash for the closet, only to be brought up in mid-flight at the end of the officer's arm.

'None of that,' he said rudely. 'You're staying here.'

'Oh, am I?' Jo replied, dealing him a clever Gallic kick. 'I want my stockings.'

'Ah-ha,' observed Madge Sedgwick triumphantly. 'Then he did undress her.'

Probably because they assumed it to be a part of a policeman's duty, no one seemed to pay the slightest attention to the officer doubled up in anguish. That is, no one save Little Arthur, who, for the moment forgetting his own troubles in the presence of those of the law, was laughing weakly upon the stairs.

'Did it hurt much?' solicitously asked Peter, who from his Olympian heights had witnessed the incident.

'Hurt?' gasped the policeman, stung by the inadequacy of the word. 'It's ruined I am to the grave.'

'See what you've done to our police force,' said Peter, looking down on Josephine clawing in the closet.

'Can't help that,' she answered. 'No low cop can come between me and my stockings.'

'Oh, this is too disgraceful,' Sophie Van Dyck informed all present. 'Too disgraceful for words.'

'Not disgraceful enough for my words,' muttered Josephine. 'Ah! Here they are—my stockings!'

As the girl rose with a wad of stockings in her hand, Sophie Van Dyck directed on her the full force of her attack.

'Young woman,' she demanded, 'did you tell my butler you were going to have a baby?'

'After being cooped up in that closet with your naked nephew,' Jo replied indignantly as she stuffed the stockings back in their tender concealment, allowing one of them to dangle untidily down the front of the duster, 'after being in there like that, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if I had a male quartet. Would you?'

Miss Van Dyck saw no good in being dragged into this discussion.

'May I ask if you have anything on beneath that duster?' she asked.

'What do you think?' replied Josephine. 'What has he got on beneath that fur coat?'

As she pointed to the odd figure on the stairs, every one looked up and decided it did not have much. Before the direct fire of so many calculating glances Peter shrank a little. By this time the injured officer had discovered he could stand erect.

'What are you laughing at?' he demanded reproachfully of Little Arthur.

'At them,' said Little Arthur, pointing to the legs above him.

'What!' cried Peter, turning fiercely upon the pick-pocket. 'You lying little—'

Don't say it, mister,' Arthur pleaded. 'I wasn't laughing at all.'

'You'll be hysterical when I get you up before the boys,' the assaulted policeman promised him.

'Aunt Sophie,' Yolanda said in a low voice, 'there can be no announcement to-day. This has spoiled everything.'

'I agree with that,' Aunt Sophie replied. 'But just the same we'll carry on as if nothing had occurred. Take our dear guests back to the reception room.'

'Hurrah!' cried Jo, tossing up her arms, the hands of which lay concealed well down in the sleeves of the duster. 'You're saved, Peter. You're saved.'

'Saved for what?' he asked her. 'Another day?'

'For us, of course,' she replied. 'For me!'

'A living death,' he answered.

'Gord spare you, sir, from that one,' put in Little Arthur piously. 'No matter what you've done.'

The bell rang, and Sanders, as if arising from a long illness, admitted several guests. With startled eyes they regarded the group on the stairs, then transferred their gaze to the enigmatic figure lurking within the voluminous folds of the duster. It was peering at them like a strange bird from behind a pair of goggles.

'What's that?' asked a tall gentleman, his face growing pale beneath a fresh massage.

'Don't know,' gasped a lady with him. 'It's awful. And Peter Van Dyck is almost . . .' Her voice trailed away.

'It's charades, my dear,' Aunt Sophie smoothly explained. 'It's been such a lark, Yolanda, take them directly to the drawing-room. Cocktails.'

Yolanda did.

'Now, young lady,' Aunt Sophie continued severely, 'your conduct has been most disgraceful. I don't know what to do with you. Obviously you are a thief—perhaps even worse. You must leave this house at once, quietly and without further violence. You will, of course, leave the stolen articles behind.'

'They're not so hot, anyway,' said Jo.

'And they're not stolen,' called Peter momentarily feeling sorry for the small, defiant creature looking a little lonely in the great hall. 'I'll explain everything, Auntie. You see, I'm sending those things over to one of my friends. He's going on a trip. Wanted to borrow them. Sent one of the maids—a fresh piece. I admit—but that's how she got here.'

'But why is she wearing them in that ridiculous fashion?' Aunt Sophie persisted, her curiosity overcoming her eagerness to believe in any comfortable explanation.

'Oh, that,' replied Peter, thinking quickly. 'More convenient, you know. Doesn't nave to carry them. Perhaps it even amuses her.'

'Well, it doesn't amuse me,' declared Aunt Sophie with conviction.

'Come, Little Arthur,' said Peter. 'Get me ready.'

He paused and looked back at Jo, who had snatched off the goggles and was standing gazing up at him like a child about to be sent to bed: a child, Peter decided, who certainly should not be allowed to sleep alone.

'Good-bye, mister,' she said. 'And thanks for all the things you've done—even though you shouldn't have.'

Jo made sure that Yolanda, emerging from the drawing-room, overheard her parting remark.

'Hold on!' cried the officer. 'Don't I make no pinch?'

'Pinch yourself, brother,' said Jo. 'You're sleeping on your feet.'

The front door closed behind her.

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