The Bishop's Jaegers
A FAREWELL TO DRAWERS
BISHOP WALLER, clad only in a towel, stood in the centre of his newly acquired room at the 'Half-Moon.' A majestic figure, the Bishop, now that at last his jaegers were off. Bishop Waller was waiting for the hotel valet. On the bed lay an orderly row of garments but recently returned to him by the considerate but reprehensible Mr. Jones. In his heart the Bishop could not thoroughly disapprove of the man. Mr. Jones had his points.
However, before the Bishop could don his rightful attire and mingle once more with his kind, he felt it essential to procure at all costs a new pair of jaegers, the extra pair having been left behind in his suitcase on the abandoned ferry. The old ones had served their purpose. They had outworn their usefulness. Yet Bishop Waller did not despise the abandoned jaegers. Far from it. He regarded them in the light of a religious relic. They deserved to be framed tastefully and hung in a church.
'Jaegers Worn by Bishop Waller in Defiance of the Nudes,' or some other such terse, dignified explanation would do quite nicely, for, of course, the presence of those jaegers in a church would have to be explained.
A knock sounded on the door.
'Come in,' said Bishop Waller, an invitation he would not have extended in his present condition ten days ago. 'Can I be of any service?' the valet inquired.
'Of invaluable service,' replied the Bishop, tossing the jaegers over the man's extended arm. 'Go out into the marts and highways of this city and see if you can match those.'
The valet raised his eyebrows and considered the garment dangling from his arm a little more distastefully than the Bishop would have liked.
'It will be difficult at this hour,' said the man, 'to match these er—'
'Jaegers,' supplied the Bishop.
'Exactly,' agreed the valet. 'But I think it can be done, sir. I know of one store that sells almost anything at any time of night. It's such an odd store, I'm sure they must have things like this.'
'Excellent,' said the Bishop, 'save for the last sentence."
Half an hour later the valet returned with a neatly tied package. Eagerly the Bishop opened it and extracted the garment within. The valet produced the odd pair from another package not nearly so neatly tied. In fact, it was in an old bag that the battered jaegers had been returned. Evidently the shopkeeper regarded them even more distastefully than did the valet. Bishop Waller let this pass.
The valet held up the old pair while the Bishop held up the new. Together they compared the garments.
'To a buttonhole,' cried the Bishop at last, beaming upon the valet. 'Splendid work, my fine fellow. A perfect match to the last, least buttonhole. I would have said button, only there aren't any buttons on the old ones. I must have been a sight.'
Aspirin Liz and Little Arthur had shifted into their respective drawers with precision and despatch. Little Arthur, as he got into his ancient pair, mutely promised the patron saint of all good pickpockets that he would never take them off again nor desire those of any other man. With Liz he had dined in regal splendour—far better than he had ever dined before—in the long, restful dining-room of the hotel. Soft music, together with a knowledge of his companion's alert scrutiny, had so conquered his spirit that he left the silver intact. After dinner they had strolled along the broadwalk for the sheer pleasure of experiencing the sensation of being fully clad in public.
At the moment Liz was engaged in utterly demolishing Little Arthur. Seated in a tiny but apparently indestructible self-propelling vehicle, known as a Dodge-'em, she was pursuing him—likewise ensconced—round an enclosed surface presided over by a tolerantly benign Japanese. Every time she drove her midget motor into that of her light-fingered playfellow, her titanic laughter drifted far into the night. It tickled something savage and destructive in her soul to crash into Little Arthur and to shatter virtually every bone in his frail body.
'It ain't fair,' screamed the small crook, purple in the face. 'You're carrying too much fat.'
'Oh, dear,' sighed Liz weakly, tears streaming down her cheeks, 'this is more fun than a kettle of fish.'
She pressed her foot on the pedal and launched herself into Arthur as if she would totally destroy him. There was the sound of a mighty impact, her victim's head jerked crazily backwards, his car twirled impotently across the floor, and Liz's wild laughter drew fresh spectators from the boardwalk.
Never, decided the Japanese, had he had such a wholly satisfactory nest egg as Liz. She overflowed her car and gave the almost deserted floor the appearance of being crowded—of literally throbbing with gaiety and life. The lookers-on regarded her with wonderment and respect and Little Arthur with deep commiseration.
Crashing, dodging, and steadily insulting each other, Aspirin Liz and Little Arthur spin dizzily from the page.
In the quiet, gracious lounge of the hotel filled with comfortable divans and armchairs and generously supplied with ashtrays—a stroke of sheer genius—Mr. Horace Sampson was sitting with the reporter. Sampson was in the philosophical pink. He was wondering idly what the guests of the hotel would do if suddenly deprived of their drawers—everything, in fact. He was endeavouring to imagine the reactions of the various ladies and gentlemen under his observation. That old lady with the pearls round a high stiff collar would never survive the shock, whereas there were a couple of girls over there who after a little parleying might take to it like ducks to water. It was difficult to tell at a glance. He turned to the reporter seated in a chair beside him.
'What do you think of drawers?' asked the philosopher.
'Personally,' replied the reporter, 'I admire them less than any garment I wear—even less than my undershirt.'
'Yet,' pursued the philosopher, 'if you had to choose between them, the drawers would win the day.'
'Naturally,' retorted the reporter. 'An undershirt merely keeps one warm, whereas drawers keep one decent. A man looks less ridiculous in a pair of drawers than when he is clad only in an undershirt.'
'I'm not convinced,' the philosopher replied thought-fully. 'Some drawers can be singularly ridiculous. For example, those worn by the good Bishop still amuse me even in retrospect.'
'After your experience, Mr. Sampson,' inquired the reporter, 'what is your opinion of the nudist colony from which you escaped?'
'Not high,' replied Sampson, 'but of this I am convinced; to endeavour to conquer the flesh is a profitless undertaking. Before a man or a woman can arrive at any degree of spiritual tranquillity, he or she must give flesh the rein. Whether one is clad in bare flesh or fur makes very little difference.'
'How about the health angle?' asked the philosopher's companion.
'Fiddlesticks!' he snapped. 'The benefits derived from mixed nudity are far offset by the mental agitation it entails. When men and women deliberately set out to attain a state of purity and so-called innocence, they are endeavouring to capture something that never existed. And if they did succeed, they would be greatly disappointed people. Purity, my friend, is simply an escape from the obligations one owes to one's own body as well as to others much more attractively fashioned.' The philosopher turned and considered the radio darkly. It was a splendid radio. A lonely little grey-haired man was clinging to it like a drowning man to a straw. 'Tell me,' resumed Mr. Sampson, 'what is that sick sound issuing from that box?'
'That sound,' replied the reporter, 'is made nightly by one of the nation's most popular crooners.'
For a moment the philosopher considered this in silence.
'You see,' he said at last, 'how difficult it is for a man of my views to live in harmony with his fellow-men. To me that noise is more degrading to humanity, more destructive to the morale, more morally and spiritually enervating than strong drink and weak women—I mean by that, accommodating women.' He stretched his long legs and knocked the ashes from his pipe. 'The chap making that noise deserves no drawers at all,' he said, reflectively. 'He should be clad in scanties.'
A full moon over the 'Half-Moon.' Its ship-crested tower mounted high above the boardwalk and looked far out to sea. Lights on the dark ocean moving along to Europe, to the tropics and distant ports. High up in this tower Jo and Peter were standing in the moonlight. And remarkable as it may seem, both of them were dressed. Probably not for long.
'Are you going to keep this up indefinitely?' asked Peter. 'You have a room of your own.'
She disregarded his question, knowing he did not mean it.
'I had hoped,' she said, 'that Bishop Waller would marry us in his jaegers.'
'And what would we be wearing?' he inquired.
'Simply ourselves,' said Jo.
'All marriages should be made that way,' Peter observed surprisingly. 'It would save a lot of time.'
'I'm afraid there'd be fewer marriages,' said Jo, 'if couples undressed first.'
'Not at all,' retorted Peter. 'Many a plain face surmounts a lovely body. And you must remember, Jo, the latter is very important.'
'I never forget,' breathed Jo.
'To-morrow the Bishop will marry us,' he continued. 'Aspirin Liz and Little Arthur will be the worst man and woman. I have decided to take them into my employment. You will be engaged in the capacity of wife.'
'No longer your concubine,' Jo said somewhat sadly. 'I'll sort of miss that. It's been so good being bad.'
She turned away from the window and went into her room. It adjoined Peter's, and the door to it had been locked when they had first arrived. Not wishing to disturb any one, Peter had bribed Little Arthur to pick it.
'It's the most shameful thing I've ever done,' the little crook had protested. 'I feel like a white-slaver.'
A ten-dollar bill had done much to make him forget this unpleasant feeling. Before he had left the room he had convinced his dishonest little mind that he was a public benefactor.
'I guess it's better this way after all,' he had admitted as he pocketed the money. 'It will keep you from running up and down the halls, so people can get some sleep and you can keep yer shame to yourselves.'
'Peter,' Jo called from the next room, 'do you like my body?'
'Sure,' replied Peter. 'I think it's just great.'
'Then I'll tell you what let's do,' she went on. 'You take off your clothes and I'll take off mine and we'll play matching bruises. I got a lot in that park.'
'I have so many they're merging,' Peter informed her, turning from the window. 'How is Ellis?'
'She's gone to sleep in the bathtub as happy as a lark.'
'If Sampson were present he'd want to know how a duck can be as happy as a totally different make of bird,' observed Peter.
'I'm glad he's not here,' said Jo. 'Wonder if Ellis is the first duck ever to have occupied a bathtub at the "Half-Moon."'
'I guess we will never know that,' said Peter, taking off his shoes.
And in a little while Josephine and Peter were matching the various bruises they had collected during the sound and fury of their flight. They were almost like little children about it, but ... not quite.