Previous ChapterContentsNext Chapter

The Nightlife Of The Gods


Thorne Smith



THE Olympus mob was foregathered at what is perhaps one of the world's fishiest eating establishments. There might be places equally fishy, but certainly no place could get itself fishier. It far surpassed the sea god's fondest expectations, for more fishiness per square foot was crammed into the shabby, antiquated room than he had ever believed possible outside of his spray-crested realm.

The room was not lacking in personality. It had an atmosphere entirely its own. In it were to be found some of the smartest and most desperate fish eaters in the city—fish eaters in on the know.

Whereas fish fanciers congregated at the Aquarium a few blocks south to gaze ineffectually at humiliatingly indifferent fish, the habitués of this river-front room—the real natural-born fish eaters of serious purpose and honest intent—came here with much heavier business in view. Their object was not merely frivolously to contemplate fish. Far from it. They came here to do something about fish, something positive and definite, something held clearly in mind. In short, to eat the things.

One cannot tell by observing a person looking at a fish whether that person is genuinely fond of fish or thoroughly detests them—loathes them, in fact. The fish watcher might be doing either one of two things—gloating over the incarceration of the fish, or deriving enjoyment from the contemplation of their stupid activities. No such doubt can exist when observing a person eating fish. One can tell at a glance whether that person is sincerely fond of fish or is merely tolerating the fish until something less disagreeable turns up, such as tripe.

The true fish eater never hides his light beneath a bushel unless it happens to be a bushel of oysters or clams. Fish eaters are frank about it. And if not extremely careful they can develop into terrific bores.

The restaurant was redolent of fish. Outside, the streets were slippery with them—lined with fish markets. Pretty nearly every water-loving creature that ever swam, crawled, oozed, or drifted seemed to have settled in the neighbourhood. In this district no fish need ever feel lonely. Few ever did, because most of them were quite dead.

The Hawk party were seated at a large round table. There was ample elbow-room and a feeling of spaciousness. It was a table designed to hold a great many fish or one lightweight whale—as many as a party of ten could decently eat at one sitting. Perseus had placed his head beside his chair on the sawdust-sprinkled floor. He had done this because the negro waiter had refused to approach the table until the disconcerting object was out of sight. Mercury had laid aside his caduceus, and Neptune had slipped his trident under the table. Diana had left her bow at home.

'To begin with,' began Mr Hawk, 'does anyone here want fish!'

'The very word revolts me,' Venus declared. 'This is no place for the goddess of love. I belong in a night club.'

'Ask the waiter to bring us a cup,' said Hebe in a low voice, 'and fill it from that flask you have on your hip. The gods are getting low.'

Neptune was too bemused to answer his host's question. His eyes were fixed on an ice-tank on the top of which reposed in horrid state a number of ill-tempered-looking lobsters. Unable to bear the sight any longer, the great man left the table and laid violent hands on two of the ugliest, most anti-social-looking crustaceans Mr Hawk remembered ever having seen. With this wickedly animated pair of pliers he returned to the table and prepared to do battle with them there and then in cold blood.

'Those damn things are worse than my snakes,' Perseus complained. 'Look at the faces on them.'

'I can't bring myself to look at him,' said Diana. 'He's actually going to eat the things alive.'

The negro waiter's eyes were doing something good in the line of popping.

'Gawd, brother,' he muttered to an associate, 'that pitchfork-toting party is one tough gentleman. See him snapping at them great big green rascals.'

'Would you mind going away to some secluded corner and fighting out your battles alone?' Venus asked her uncle.

'Tooth against claw,' observed Mercury. 'I bet on the teeth.'

'What's wrong with the lot of you?' demanded Neptune, sighting at the table between the jagged claw of one of his opponents. 'I always tackle 'em this way.'

A few of the more advanced fish eaters in the room were regarding the sea god with attentive admiration. They had never tried lobsters quite so fully alive themselves and were anxious to see just how one went about it. Although aware of the attention Neptune's impulsive action was attracting to the table, Mr Hawk retained his self-possession. He reached over and quietly but firmly removed one lobster from Neptune's grasp; then with his left hand he removed the other. The god was too astonished to protest effectively. The scientist nodded to the waiter.

'Take these things outside,' he said, 'and cook them.'

Neptune gazed after the departing waiter in speechless indignation, then turned to Mr Hawk.

'What did you want to do that for?' he demanded.

'Had I known previously,' replied Mr Hawk quietly, 'that you wanted to fight lobsters, I'd have made more suitable arrangements.'

'But I always polish off a couple of live lobsters before I wire into the fish.' the god protested.

'I was unfamiliar with your habits,' the scientist explained with a faint smile. 'However, I think you're going to enjoy these lobsters just as well. They're delicious when they're broiled.'

'Are they?' Neptune exclaimed, his face brightening up. 'I can hardly wait.'

'You didn't,' remarked Mr Hawk briefly.

Hebe was cheerfully moving round the table with a cupful of cocktails. A rose-pink gown adorned her exquisitely feminine figure. A beatific smile wreathed her lips. She was happy. She was bearing a cup.

'Bear your cup to me, sweet wench,' said Mr Hawk. 'My nerves need a little bolstering up. I wasn't counting on a lobster fight.'

Hebe eagerly complied. 'Go on,' she urged prettily. 'Get a little bit that way.'

'How about yourself?' he asked.

'Someone has to bear the cup,' she answered simply.

'You'd make an ideal wife,' he observed as he swallowed a drink.

'I've never found it necessary to marry,' she answered with a look too innocent to be true.

'It is rather an ostentatious gesture,' agreed Mr Hawk. 'Never tried it myself.'

'It all comes to the same thing,' remarked Hebe, and moved gracefully away.

Across the table from him Mercury was showing Meg a new way to steal knives and forks.

'Of course,' he explained, 'these things are hardly worth the trouble, but you never can tell who's going to ask you to dinner. Just as well to keep your hand in.'

'Oh, quite,' replied Meg. 'Is this yours?'

With a puzzled expression Mercury took the proffered wallet and examined it.

'Haven't had it long enough to get used to it,' he explained with an embarrassed laugh. 'Originally it wasn't mine, but I thought I'd just bring it along to see what was inside. How did you come by it?'

'In a like manner,' she answered. 'You see, with you stealing is merely a diversion; with me it's a means of existence.'

'You must have made out well,' Mercury remarked dryly.

Meg acknowledged the compliment with a slight bow.

They're here! They're here!' cried Neptune, as the waiter placed the lobsters before him. 'Broiled, you say? Well, it doesn't matter. Dead or alive, they're the same to me.'

The deep-sea god fell to with avidity, as did the others. Years of enforced fasting had put an edge on their appetites. Mr Hawk, watching them, decided that one of the most likeable features of the Olympians was that they put their whole hearts into whatever they chanced to be doing. Their enjoyment of life and the added zest of complete self-absorption which, paradoxically enough, is the same thing as self-forgetfulness. And taking everything into consideration, their table manners were not bad, with the possible exception of Neptune, who insisted on casting his lobster shells to the floor with truly godlike indifference.

The only really unpleasant feature of the dinner occurred when Perseus reached down and placed the head of Medusa in the centre of the table. Meg, who had been one of Hebe's best customers throughout the course of the repast, decided in her elevated condition that it would be an amusing thing to bring the whole head back to life. This she did, and it was bad enough, but matters became even worse when Perseus began feeding Medusa with bits of fish snatched from various plates. Mr Hawk was so gripped by the weird spectacle that his own powers became for the moment atrophied.

Medusa fairly snapped at anything that came her way. She had to be fast about it, because the snakes had little ideas of their own. Many a choice morsel they snatched from the lips of the head they graced. Even the gods were a trifle upset by what they saw.

'Where does the damn stuff go to?' demanded Bacchus. 'She hasn't any stomach.'

'Hebe,' said Medusa with her mouth full of fish, 'what you got in your cup, dear?'

'This,' replied Hebe emphatically, 'is the one time I refuse to bear. Here.'

She passed the cup to Perseus who, in turn, held it to Medusa's lips. She thirstily drained its contents, then blinked rapidly several times.

'Whee!' she cried suddenly in a hoarse voice, causing the gods to start in their chairs. 'That's the kind of stuff I like. You're a good sort, Perseus, even if we did disagree. You couldn't dig me up a body somewhere, could you?'

Mr Hawk shuddered. Medusa's form of expression was a little too vivid for a man with an active imagination.

'Will somebody please tell me where she put that last drink?' Bacchus asked in a discouraged voice.

'Why don't you ask me, you tub?' snapped Medusa. 'If you must know, it went straight to my head. I don't need any stomach.'

The burst of wild laughter that followed this grim sally horrified the entire room. In one corner the negro waiters were grouped in a dark mass.

'When Ah think that ma ten toes were within nibbling distance of that mouth, it's pretty nigh mo' than Ah can bear,' said the erstwhile attendant at Mr Hawk's table. 'Toes, toes, stop tremblin' in yo' boots. The lady like to got you.'

Hunter Hawk took a swig from a second flask without waiting for a cup to be borne.

'Ah, there,' said the head. 'At it again, I see. How about a little drink for baby?'

'Let her have just one more,' pleaded Perseus. 'I'll look after her.'

Without a word the scientist relinquished his flask to the god, who thrust it between Medusa's distended lips and tilted it at a generous angle. The owner of the restaurant took one good look at what was going on, then tightly closed his eyes.

'Does anyone want to buy this place?' he asked. 'You can name your own price. When things like this begin to happen, it's time to quit. I know when the stuff's got me.' He laughed a trifle hysterically. 'Go on, everybody, have a good time. Have a fish on me,' he shouted. 'I've gone ga-ga.' As he passed through the service door he was heard to remark to himself, 'A disembodied, rum-drinking head, smartly trimmed with snakes.' The poor man's voice rose to a yell. 'Break out a couple of quarts, Steve. I want to get blind drunk.'

'But I saw it, too,' said the unseen person addressed.

'What!' screamed the owner. 'Trying to humour me, are you?'

Further discourse was drowned by the sound of breaking plates.

'I can stand very little more of this,' said Diana. 'Won't you turn that head back to stone, Mr Hawk?'

'If I had my old cunning,' retorted Medusa, 'I'd damn well turn you to stone.'

'Don't turn her back to stone,' put in Perseus. 'Please don't, Mr Hawk. She's having such a good time, she and her little snakes.'

'Do you expect to go about town with a boisterously drunken snake-bearing head under your arm?' Mr Hawk asked mildly.

'Certainly not,' declared Apollo. 'The damn thing gives me the creeps.'

Medusa, indifferent to her fate, had begun to sing in a deep bass voice. This decided Mr Hawk. He raised his right hand and returned the head to stone in the middle of its most ear-piercing effort. Meg immediately turned it back, and the interrupted voice continued to tell the world all about silver snakes among the gold.

'Hey, quit that,' protested Medusa. 'I don't know whether I'm coming or going. You're making me dizzy.'

'You're going,' replied Mr Hawk, and once more returned the head to stone. 'Lay off that head, Meg,' he continued, 'or I'll have to do the same thing to you.'

Meg's brow darkened rebelliously, but she made no further attempt to interfere with the head. Mr Hawk, observing her expression, suspected her of designs as black as the glances she cast him from time to time.

'Can you eat any more fish?' he asked Neptune.

'If I did,' the god retorted, 'you could play the scales on my back.'

'The old boy's getting funny,' observed Diana.

'Fish affect me that way,' he replied. 'You should eat more of them, my dear.'

But Neptune received his biggest thrill when the party, well primed with food and drink, had shaken the sawdust of the restaurant from its feet and was walking cheerfully along the water-front. Mr Hawk was determined to leave no stone unturned to give the sea god his fill of fish. It was the scientist's private hope that Neptune would become so sick of fish that the mere sight of a tin of sardines would revolt him. He little suspected, did Hunter Hawk, the profound depths of the god's fondness for the dumb creatures of his realm.

As they passed by the fish markets, busy even at that hour of the night, the sight of so vast and so varied a quantity of fish, rather than exerting a soothing and reassuring influence on Neptune, seemed only to excite him, to arouse in him that latent spark of cupidity without which no person, whether god or mortal, can struggle along with any degree of enjoyment. The more fish Neptune looked upon, the more he wondered why these people should have so many fish while he himself could lay claim not even to a minnow. Surely no one had a better right. Was not he the great Neptune, the boss of all the damn fish that swam? This matter would have to be looked into, the situation rectified. Now, if he could only bring a fish home with him. That would be a start at least.

He stopped before a large box of fish and picked up one of the slippery objects. Now, it just so happened that the man who had things to do with that particular box of fish, whatever it is one does with a box of fish, was in an atrocious humour. Perhaps a fish had bitten him, or he was tired of looking at fish lookers, or fish had simply gotten on his nerves. Whatever the cause may have been, the fact remains that the man was in no mood to take any shilly-shallying from Neptune. He approached the god and addressed him with brutal directness.

'Put down that fish,' said the man.

'Why should I put down this fish?' asked Neptune with deceptive mildness. 'Is it your fish?'

'Don't ask foolish questions,' replied the man. 'Of course it's my fish. Put it down.'

'Who gave you this fish?' asked Neptune. 'Where did you get it?'

'Nobody gave me that fish,' declared the man.

'No?' said Neptune, slightly elevating his eyebrows. 'Do you mean to say you didn't come by the fish honestly?'

'Say,' retorted the man, 'what are you trying to pull, anyway? I haven't time to stand talking to you all night long. Put that fish down.'

'Are you busy?' inquired Neptune. 'Busy about fish?'

'What's that to you?' snapped the other. 'As it happens, I am busy. It's fish, fish, fish, morning, noon, and night.'

'You're fortunate,' observed the sea god. 'I envy you your agreeable occupation.'

'What are you trying to be, funny?' demanded the fish-weary individual. 'Are you going to put that fish down?'

Mr Hawk and his party had stopped at the street corner and were clustered there, looking back at the apparently harmlessly conversing god.

'Did it ever occur to you,' Neptune asked of the man, 'that I might grow tired of hearing you tell me to put this fish down?'

Here Neptune gently shook the fish under the man's affronted nose.

'And did it ever occur to you,' sneered the man, 'that I might grow tired of having to tell you to put that fish down?'

'Do you happen to know,' demanded Neptune, drawing himself up to his full height, 'that I am the god of all fish?'

'You're not the god of that fish,' the man replied with absolute conviction.

This piece of defiance infuriated Neptune. 'What!' he exclaimed, raising his voice slightly. 'Not the god of this fish? Do you mean to stand there and tell me that?'

'That fish hasn't got any god,' said the man.

Neptune examined the fish with renewed interest. 'Do I understand you to say that this is a godless fish?'

'I don't know what you understand me to say,' replied the man, 'or what you don't understand me to say, but I wonder if you understand me when I tell you to put down that fish?'

'I understand you well enough,' said Neptune, 'but I'm not going to put down this fish. That's flat.'

'What are you going to do with that fish?' asked the other, growing pale from exasperation.

Once more the god examined the fish as if seeing it for the first time.

'What am I going to do with this fish?' he repeated in a slightly puzzled voice. 'Well, I don't know exactly what I'm going to do with this fish, but I do know one thing, and that is, I'm not going to put it down.'

'Oh,' said the man, 'you're not going to put it down?'

'No,' replied Neptune with great dignity. 'I'm not going to put the fish down.'

'Oh, for God's sake,' exclaimed the other, casting all hope of patience to the wind, 'you're not going to stand there all night long holding that damned fish, are you?'

'No,' replied the sea god, 'I'm certainly not going to do that.'

'Then just what do you intend to do with that fish?' asked the man in one of those deadly calms that presages a complete abandonment of reason.

'I don't just know what my intentions are regarding this fish,' declared Neptune with cocktail-begotten ponderosity. 'I don't care to hold the fish, neither do I feel at all inclined to put it down. Furthermore, I'm extremely tired of observing your silly face. If you want to know what I think of you and your fish—watch!'

With this Neptune threw the much-discussed fish into the astounded man's face. It was a telling shot, and it landed fairly. With the unpleasant sound of a solidified splash the fish impinged on the man's left cheek and a considerable portion of his nose.

There is something in being hit with a fish that arouses all that is worst in human nature. A pie or a brick may affect different persons in different ways, but with a fish it is always the same. There is only one result—homicidal rage on the part of the recipient of the fish. This invariably happens.

For a moment the man stood stunned; then quite automatically he dipped his hand into the box and hurled several fish into Neptune's face.

'Just what I wanted,' cried the god with a nasty laugh. 'I love fish.'

'Oh, you do, do you?' panted the other, more from anger than from exertion. 'Well, how about this one?'

He picked up a fish that barely missed being a whale and flung it with all his might at Neptune. The sea god dodged nimbly, and the fish took up its position in the gutter. As the man bent over to seize upon another fish, Neptune prodded him in an investigatory spirit in the part thus prominently exposed. It was not so much a painful act of retaliation as it was a degrading one. There was something about it that the man found ultimately insulting. He snapped erect with another large fish in his hands and this time his aim was more accurate. The fish descended heavily on the sea god's head, and for a moment the Olympian was dazed. He staggered back, then relieved himself of a roar that meant nothing less than war to the death.

The gods and goddesses gathered at the corner observing that all was not well with their fish-inclined relation, and recognizing from aeons past the nature of his bull-throated roar, legged it down the street without even pausing for the formality of a huddle. They were filled with fish and grog, which make a fighting combination. Mr Hawk, despairing of peace, cast his lot with the gods and bounded down the pavement in the direction of this novel altercation.

Perseus, the professional hero, was the first to arrive at the scene of action. His movements were precise and definite. It was like a smooth first night after weeks of conscientious rehearsals. He picked up a barrel of fish and permitted the silvery shower to play over the head of his uncle's adversary. The man went down under a deluge of fish. From his clammy place of confinement his head emerged and began to make significant noises. He was earnestly summoning aid. And aid was not long in arriving.

It so seems that men who spend much of their time in the company of fish either dead or alive are strong, hostile, and active men. The group that joined battle with the Olympians were of this type, at any rate. They emerged from many doors, and Hunter Hawk, who was ever interested in experimenting, wrapped a large eel round the leader's neck. So far eels had not entered into the battle, but from now on they played an important part.

Even a man most accustomed to fish does not like to have his neck adorned with an eel. Proceeding on the assumption that one cares for eels, it is only a person with a perverted taste who cares for them that way. This man did not care for them that way. He unwound the eel from his neck and, twirling it round his head with the dexterity but not the charm of Will Rogers, released it to its own devices. The eel sped over the immediate area of conflict, and as if spying Venus, who was pantingly bringing up the rear, sought seclusion down the bosom of her dress. It was then that this ravishing creature performed on the sidewalks of New York and in sight of the battling multitude what could only be classified as a lascivious dance. An eel on the exterior of one's stomach is even less agreeable than an eel twined round one's neck, and a lady finding herself in such a predicament may be forgiven for dancing almost any dance that pops into her head at the moment. So effective were Venus's convolutions that each faction paused in its effort to outfish the other until the eel had been dislodged from its intimate place of concealment.

Having successfully rid herself of her uninvited guest, Venus turned her thoughts towards methods of reprisal. With a critical observation regarding the casual parentage of the eel slinger, she hurled herself into the forefront of the conflict, and, disregarding the aid of fish, knocked the man flat with one Olympian blow. Couched on a layer of slippery fish the semi-conscious individual made a surprisingly neat exit towards the gutter, where he remained. Undiscouraged by his enforced absence, the fight continued with, if anything, augmented abandon.

Megaera, with her usual resourcefulness, had endeavoured to equalize the discrepancy in cubic stature by arming herself with a swordfish, with which she was doing painful execution. Mr Hawk, clearing a fish from his eyes, caught a glimpse of her industriously sawing away on the leg of a large party upon whose face Bacchus was comfortably seated while searching about for a certain kind of fish he had in mind. Hawk laughed madly and dispatched a flounder with scientific accuracy into the face of his nearest adversary. Apollo and Diana, from behind a barricade of barrels, were methodically emptying them of their salty contents by levelling an effective barrage upon the enemy. Perseus, having retrieved his head which momentarily he had laid aside, was holding single-handed three stout fish flingers at bay. Everyone seemed to be conscientiously doing his or her bit. They would have done even more, had it not been for the intervention of the police. These civic joy-killers arrived in a body of three. Mercury, from his point of vantage on the driver's seat of a cart, was the first to be aware of their arrival. Mistaking them for partisans, he discharged two handfuls of fish stingingly upon them. The officers of the law were both annoyed and disgusted. Somebody was going to pay for this indignity. A few revolver shots they might have overlooked, but fish, never. One of them sprang to the seat by Mercury and raised his night stick on high. Mr Hawk broke through the seething crowd and turned the god to stone. The club descended with a loud report and snapped in two. The blank astonishment written on the officer's face repaid Mr Hawk for many fast-travelling fish. Incredulously the policeman reached out a hand and felt Mercury's face. The hand was swiftly withdrawn.

'Be God,' muttered its owner, 'it's the first case on record of a fish-flinging stone.'

For a moment he stood amid the din and confusion, completely submerged in his thoughts. Then with a sigh he decided to dismiss the incident entirely from his life and let one of his brother officers carry on where he had left off. However, he was too late. Mr Hawk reversed the order of things. He petrified the policeman and released the messenger of the gods. Then, above the shouts and imprecations and the steady patter of fish, the scientist made his voice heard.

'Cease firing,' he shouted, 'and follow me. Don't lose your tags.'

Picking Meg up bodily, he sprinted down the street and turned a corner. The Olympians streaked after him, and after them the policemen, frantically blowing their whistles. This would never do, Hawk decided. There was enough noise already, without the policemen adding to it. He jumped into a doorway, and as the officers rushed past at the heels of the gods, he added two more impressive-looking statues to the police force in New York.

Into a cruising taxi he bundled as many gods and goddesses as he could find. He gave the driver the address and told him to drive like hell. He then hurried down the street in search of another taxi. Behind him the two petrified members of the city's finest looked as if they were playfully indulging in an adult game of Still Water, No More Moving. Later, when two members of the Flying Squad came across their statuesque colleagues, they did not have the temerity to report their find to Police Sergeant Burk, the officer in charge.

'It would sound too damned silly,' said one of the discoverers, 'to report to him that Officers Sullivan and O'Boyle had been found turned to stone.'

'We wouldn't have a button left,' agreed the other.

Police Sergeant Burk, however, had discovered strange things for himself. When he had demanded of the petrified figure on the driver's seat of the wagon just what was all the trouble about and received no answer, he had climbed up beside the figure and examined it closely. It was an odd coincidence that Sergeant Burk, like his two subordinates, made no report of his discovery. He felt that it was one of those things that might lead to profitless discussion. Let others find out for themselves, was his not unwise decision. Thoughtfully he climbed down from the wagon and ordered the arrest of every living being in sight. After that he went home and got speedily into bed. The next day he put in an urgent request for a long vacation. What subsequently became of the three petrified officers was never officially recorded, although rumour has it that they were successfully used as shock absorbers on several important raids. Neither is it known whether they still received pay for their services or were ever carried to visit their respective families. Such purely irrelevant considerations are merely matters of conjecture.

In Mr Hawk's arms Meg was singing 'Rock-a-bye, baby, on the tree top,' while above her the scientist's lean face peered into the darkness for a possible means of escape. Presently he spied a taxi, and toward this yellow hope he dashed, head on. It was not until he was seated with his burden in the cab that he noticed she was clinging to a swordfish.

'What do you want that thing for?' he demanded.

Meg looked at the fish in surprise. 'I don't know,' she said. 'Didn't realize I had it. Let's bring it home to Neptune.'

It was then that a harmless citizen was given something to talk about for many weeks by the sudden appearance at his feet of a swordfish which seemed to have descended from the sky.

'Is anyone in?' Mr Hawk asked the operator of the private elevator.

'Yes, sir,' replied the operator, then added after a moment's hesitation, 'Ever so many.'

The Olympians, virtually stripped to the skin of their fish-battered garments, had distributed themselves clubbily about the lounge and were thirstily watching Mr Betts as he diligently mixed cocktails. Hebe was standing by with a trayful of cups.

Meg and Mr Hawk were greeted enthusiastically upon their entrance. Inquiries were made regarding the probable whereabouts of Neptune, the missing cause of all the trouble.

'Probably in jail,' said Mr Hawk wearily. 'If so, Betts will have to bail him out.'

'A well-chosen word in connexion with Neptune,' observed Mercury, whose mind was ever alert for trifles.

There was a hint of dawn in the sky when the sea god finally put in an appearance. He walked jauntily into the room with a huge fish over his shoulder impaled on the prongs of his trident.

'That elevator boy seems to be upset about something,' he told Mr Hawk.

'I can't imagine what,' that gentleman replied.

With a dignified bow to the assembled company Neptune hastened to the telephone and removed the receiver.

'Hello,' he said, 'I have a fish up here I want you to put on ice. It's an unusually large fish, and I want it served whole for breakfast. How big is it?' He paused and looked appraisingly at the fish, then turned back to the telephone. 'Oh, I'd say about six feet six,' he announced, not without a note of pride. 'What's that? Too big, you say? Then I'll eat the damn thing in the bathtub.'

He hung up the receiver with a snap and accepted the cocktail that Hebe bore him. Extending his cup courteously towards Mr Hawk, the god of the sea addressed him.

'My regards, Mr Hawk,' he said. 'This is a splendid town for fish.'

'I'm glad you like it,' said Mr Hawk rather lamely.

Venus had to be forcibly restrained from attacking her uncle.

In such a strained situation Hebe the cup-bearer and Betts the cup-filler proved themselves invaluable in restoring congenial relations. By the time the members of the party sought their beds the hint of dawn in the sky had become an open avowal.

Previous ChapterContentsNext Chapter