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The Nightlife Of The Gods


Thorne Smith



MR HAWK was sitting in his bedroom, and he was a little bit drunk. It was five o'clock in the morning. He was still clad in evening clothes. A high silk hat, straight black stick, and a bottle of Scotch formed a swagger group on a near-by table.

Hawk was looking mildly at nothing. His eyes shifted to the bottle of Scotch and refused to budge therefrom. As if impelled by a desire to satisfy his eyes rather than his thirst, he rose from his easy chair and arranged himself a drink. This accomplished, he reseated himself, glass in one hand and cigarette in the other.

For the past half hour he had been vaguely troubled by the need of something, the exact nature of which he had not been able to discover. Only a few minutes ago he had succeeded in doing this. Hunter Hawk knew now that he needed a little more Blotto. He missed his dog. Also, he missed Daffy. Several times he had rung for Betts to tell him about his discovery, but either the bell or Betts was out of order. For once the old gentleman had failed to answer the summons. Neither was Meg anywhere to be found. She and Mercury had gotten separated from the party. Hawk was more nervous about this than he cared to admit. Not that he suspected the loyalty of either one of them. What he did suspect most definitely was their honesty. Now that Betts was among the missing, Mr Hawk's suspicions became more firmly rooted.

'Meg, Mercury, and Betts,' he said to himself with a hopeless shake of his head. 'A bad lot. A very bad lot. They will come to no good end.'

Such bleak reflexions quite naturally led to another drink of Scotch. He enjoyed this. He enjoyed being alone. It was the first spell of solitude he had had in the last five days. Since the return of the gods, life had whirled at hurricane velocity. There had been little time for reflexion. The Olympians were all in bed now, if not asleep.

Mr Hawk knew for a fact that with the exception of the first night, not one of them had slept alone. How they managed to gather in transient guests was still a mystery to the scientist. He had grown quite accustomed to entertaining perfect strangers of both sexes at breakfast. The gods, in spite of the late hours they kept, were early risers and insisted that those who shared their beds should be early risers also. Breakfast over, past favours and friendships were callously forgotten and the guests summarily dismissed. Mr Hawk ascribed this to a delicate disinclination on the part of the Olympians to be reminded of their delinquencies, whereas the truth of the matter was that they were very easily bored by mortals and were constantly seeking fresh fields to conquer. Venus, Diana, and Hebe, in the order named, had made a strong play for Mr Hawk, Venus being the strongest, but he had successfully resisted their blandishments, more from a desire for peace than a love of purity. With Meg the gods showed a little more self-restraint. True enough, Apollo had made advances, but they had been tentative to the point of being perfunctory. Meg had found no difficulty in telling the so-called irresistible god to go to hell. Although he had not gone, he had desisted from further endeavours. They were now the best of friends. Although Meg greedily laid claim to virtually every known vice, she scornfully excluded cheating.

'Sex,' she said, 'according to our advanced thinkers, is the most important single factor in life. Having gotten this bearded profundity off their chests, they sneak down a dark alley and proceed to test the truth of their theory with some other person's husband or wife. I believe in giving sex its due importance. If you can't get along with one man or one woman at a time, then hang out your shingle and make a business of it.'

This sort of thing, of course, meant nothing to the gods. They listened to her with polite interest and said, 'Quite right,' soothingly, after which they went cheerfully about their own disreputable affairs just as if Meg's gratuitous moralizing had been an incentive to their misconduct.

Mr Hawk had been good to the gods. He had stinted them in nothing. He had gone far out of his way to be decent and had done his utmost to satisfy their every whim and fancy. When Mercury had stepped on the dance floor of a night club and spilled out an assortment of knives, forks, and spoons to which he had taken a fancy, Mr Hawk had not been stuffy about it. In fact, he had joined in the general laughter the incident had evoked, not heartily, to be sure, but he had done his best. When he had come upon Diana shooting arrows from her window into an office building across the street and causing consternation among the staff, he had made no outcry or hot-headed protest. He had helped her with the aid of innumerable pillows to rig up a dummy figure in the lounge, where he silently hoped she would shoot her damn head off. When Perseus, during the most exciting moment of a talkie, had leaped to the stage and attacked the screen, mistaking it for the villain, Mr Hawk had allowed himself to be ejected with the rest of the cheering Olympians and later had done his best to explain to the over-emotional god that the characters were not real and that even if they were, they were only fooling. That time when Hebe, unable to restrain herself, had snatched a wine-filled goblet from the hand of an indignant cloak-and-suit buyer from St Louis and then sweetly held it to the amazed man's thick lips, the scientist had casually flung out the suggestion that hereafter she should limit her cup-bearing to her own party. On the occasion when Venus had insisted on entering an impromptu beauty contest clad in little more than her garters, it had been Hawk who had carried home the prize for her. Of all the Olympians, Bacchus and Neptune were the least bother. After his first fling with the fish, Neptune had settled down to a comfortable humdrum existence. He loved to potter about, and after Mr Hawk had bought him an attractively decorated miniature aquarium full of gold fish, the sea god was as pleased as a pup with a greasy piece of rope. Nor did Mr Hawk make any reference to the constantly diminishing supply of gold fish, although he was convinced that Neptune was cheating on him. He tactfully passed over the bearded god's little weakness and gave instructions to Betts to see that new gold fish should be acquired.

'A man as large as he is,' said Mr Betts tolerantly, 'needs a little snack between meals.'

'Snack,' replied Mr Hawk with a slight shiver of revulsion, 'is the one word next to tasty I dislike most. Make a strong effort, Betts, to find less repellent substitutes.'

As for Bacchus, that jocund god was hardly any trouble at all. He required only a sufficient abundance of wine, women, and song. These innocent pastimes he indulged in for nearly the twenty-four hours of the day.

'You're the most godless gods I could have possibly selected,' Hawk told them on one occasion, 'but I'm responsible for getting you here, and it's up to me to do the right thing by you. If you have any complaints or suggestions to make, don't hesitate to let me know.'

The Olympians were loud in his praise.

'You're a good sort, Hunter,' Venus had replied, 'even if you did practically kick me out of your bed.'

'Listen, my dear.'Diana had put in, 'if you held a grudge against every man who had been forced to kick you out of his bed at one time or another, virtually every member of the male population of Italy and Greece would be in your bad graces.'

'I'll have you to know I've been kicked out of very few beds, all things considered,' had been the lovely goddess's hot retort.

'All things considered covers a multitude of kicks,' Diana had shot back.

As usual Hebe had restored the quarrelling goddess to good humour with her inevitable cup.

Only one thing was making Mr Hawk uneasy. He had noticed that of late his guests were not carrying their liquor well. The stuff seemed to be making inroads on their systems. They bickered more in the morning and were becoming more critical every day. Modern night life was evidently not agreeing with them. They were making a practice of getting themselves half lit before breakfast in order to be able to eat it. Sometimes Neptune would lie all morning completely submerged in a tub overflowing with water. In addition to its being a rather ghastly sight—particularly the floating beard—it was also terribly messy. It became even more so when the sea god insisted on taking his gold fish into the tub with him. As a result of this childish caprice Venus slipped on a straying gold fish and was inconsolable until almost every male member of the hotel staff with the possible exception of the manager had tenderly rubbed the injured spot. When, not satisfied with this, Neptune suggested that a couple of large live eels might add to the gaiety of his morning tub, Mr Hawk demanded bitterly if he would like to bathe in clam chowder or perhaps oyster stew. When Neptune told him that would be just great, the scientist turned on his heel and left the god bubbling merrily beneath the water.

As he sat there now in his luxurious armchair with the strains of a waltz from the last night club still knocking about his ears, Mr Hawk decided that perhaps his Olympians needed a change and that he himself needed another drink. He would have liked to show them his place in the country had it not been for the threat of arrest hanging over his head.

He rose from his chair and mixed himself a stiff drink, but paused with a glass at his lips. A knock had sounded on the door. The next moment Betts had entered the room.

'There's a cow outside, sir,' he announced with a slight show of embarrassment.

The scientist gave no indication of surprise other than to toss off his drink at a gulp.

'A cow,' he repeated thoughtfully. 'Do you know what it happens to want, Betts, or rather, what she wants?'

'I think she wants to come in, sir,' the servant replied.

'Have we any spare rooms?' asked Mr Hawk.

'Sometimes we have and sometimes we haven't,' said Mr Betts. 'You know how things are, sir. Never can tell from one night to another. Some nights they bring home one. Some nights they bring home two.'

'Exactly,' commented Mr Hawk dryly. 'Well, don't keep the cow standing there in the hall. Bring her in here temporarily.'

'Thank you, sir,' said Betts.

'Don't thank me, Betts,' replied Hawk. 'Have you any personal interest in this cow?'

Betts hastily disclaimed having any interest in cows in general and in this cow in particular.

'You must admit,' Mr Hawk observed mildly, 'that it is rather unusual to have a cow calling on one at this hour of the morning. Not that I find it so,' he added, deliberately replenishing his glass. 'I find nothing unusual any more. If a herd of bison should come stampeding across this floor, I wouldn't turn a hair. If an ostrich should approach me right now and ask me if I could lend him a pocket in which to hide his head, I wouldn't be able to dig up even so much as an attenuated exclamation point. But bring in this cow, Betts. I run on.'

The servant retired, and the next moment a large, gentle-looking cow walked with stately self-possession into the room. Behind the cow came Meg and Mercury, pushing its rump diligently. Once in the room the animal looked back reprovingly, as if all this pushing were entirely uncalled for.

'Close the door behind you,' said Mr Hawk quietly. He returned to his chair, sat down with elaborate caution, and levelled his eyes on the cow. A look of mutual respect and understanding passed between them. At that moment a friendship was established. So far neither Meg nor Mercury had offered any explanation. They stood bunchily together looking about them uncomfortably. Mr Betts stood a little apart steadily refusing to meet their eyes. They seemed to regard him as their leader and protector, and it was evident that Mr Betts had no desire to be regarded in either capacity.

Mr Hawk cleared his throat, and the three figures started visibly. He inspected them each in turn and decided that they, too, were not quite sober. He forgave this. He forgave everything.

'Did you just happen to run into this cow by chance in the hall?' he asked, fixing Meg and Mercury with a speculative eye, 'or did you think that I wanted a cow—that I stood in need of a cow?'

He spoke slowly and reasonably, as if addressing small and not over-intelligent children.

'We thought it would be nice,' offered Meg, after a hopeful look at Mr Betts.

'Nice for whom?' continued Mr Hawk in the same tone of pleasant inquiry. 'For me or for the cow?'

'Sort of all around,' said Mercury. 'Nice all around.'

'I see,' went on Mr Hawk. 'Then, I take it, you did not meet this cow by accident?'

'Oh, quite by accident, sir,' hastily interposed Mr Betts. 'I mean, sir, we didn't plan the cow.'

'You couldn't plan a cow, Betts,' Hawk told the old gentleman. 'That requires a bull.'

'Yes, sir. Certainly,' agreed the servant. 'That requires a bull.'

'To say the least,' put in Mercury, hoping to please Mr Hawk.

'Not to say the least, Mercury,' the scientist replied. 'Just a bull, neither more nor less.'

'And a cow, perhaps?' suggested Megaera.

'Oh, a cow by all means,' replied Mr Hawk. 'That goes without saying—but to return to this specific cow. How did you get her up here, may I ask?'

'We crammed her into the private elevator,' said Mercury with almost brutal directness.

'It must have been pretty,' observed Mr Hawk. 'And the elevator boy, did he offer no feeble objections?'

'That's a funny thing,' said Mercury, grinning for the first time. 'He didn't seem to have an objection left. Said he'd carried up so many strange things since we'd been here that one cow more or less made no difference to him. We gave him quite a lot of money.'

'And where did you get the money?' Hawk demanded, then added quickly, 'it doesn't matter. I don't care to know. Let us say you found it—as usual. An ill wind and all that sort of thing.'

'It's a nice cow,' Meg advanced timidly. She suspected her patron's calmness.

'An excellent cow,' said Hunter Hawk, regarding the animal with frank admiration. 'One of the best, no doubt, but hardly the cow for a bedroom, do you think?'

'The fact is,' supplied Betts, 'we didn't know exactly what to do with her after we'd got her here.'

'So you thought you'd give her to me,' said Mr Hawk sweetly. 'You probably decided there had been too few cows in my life. Got yourselves all worked up about it. But, tell me, how did you get the cow here and why did you get the cow here?'

'You see,' replied Mercury with a winning burst of confidence, 'we met her quite by chance wandering drearily about over by the river. She was lost—without a home, and of course, she couldn't sleep in the park.'

'Of course,' said the attentive scientist. 'They don't like cows in our parks.'

'New York,' observed Betts in a sorrowing voice, 'is a lonely place for a single cow.'

'I should imagine it would be twice as lonely for a two-headed calf,' Mr Hawk commented. 'Continue, please. We were up to the point where you had met this cow and received the impression that she was rather low in her mind. Then what happened?'

'Meg here said,' Mercury resumed, 'that you'd never stand for seeing a cow wandering round the city without a place to lay her head, and insisted on bringing her along with us.'

'I wonder how she knew that?' mused Mr Hawk. 'She must be clairvoyante.'

'Then I told her,' continued Mercury, 'that that wouldn't be at all a nice thing to do and that you wouldn't be expecting a cow. I pleaded with her, Mr Hawk, but you know how she is. She just laughed rather derisively and said that if you didn't like it you could jolly well lump it. So that's—'

'Oh, what a liar you are!' exclaimed Meg. 'I didn't say any such thing, did I, Betts?'

'I was holding the cow, Miss Meg,' the old servant replied. 'But it certainly doesn't sound like you.'

'There, what did I tell you?' said Meg. 'The man's a natural born liar and a congenital thief.'

'And that's how it happened,' finished off Mercury rather lamely.

'It seems to me, Mercury,' Mr Hawk remarked after a thoughtful silence, 'that there's some truth in the old saying yet—"There's no honour among thieves."'

Mercury smiled faintly. The truth of the matter was fairly obvious. Meg, Mercury, and Betts, the latter having accompanied the party to the night club so as to be on hand in case of emergency, had become bored with the forced gaiety of the place and had withdrawn in search of fresh pockets to pick. The course of their wanderings had at last brought them to the west side of the city in the very heart of the cattlecar district. Here they succeeded in losing themselves quite thoroughly. Picking in this quarter of the city so far as pockets were concerned was not a flourishing business, so Mercury, who was leaning against a freight car when he came to this conclusion, decided to pick its lock. This he did with masterly skill and no little enjoyment. Sliding back the door, the deft messenger of the gods thrust in a nimble arm.

'Oh, look what I got!' he announced triumphantly. 'I've found a cow.'

'Seems to me you've found a great many cows,' rejoined Megaera, as a stampede of cattle came pouring down the broad runway which the ever efficient Betts had hooked over the steel ledge of the door.

'Almost too many cows,' murmured the servant, as he jumped back just in time to avoid the mass of released animals falling and staggering from the car.

In the story he told to Mr Hawk the god had omitted to mention the fact that there were a number of homeless steers and cows that night wandering about New York. As a matter of fact, had the scientist been fully acquainted with the true facts of the situation, he would have congratulated the three thieves on the restraint they had exercised in bringing back only one cow.

The general confusion that followed the escape of the cattle served as a cloak for the further activities of the unholy three. They drove a well favoured looking animal down a side street and in the darkness held a hurried consultation. In justice to the abductors of the cow it should be stated that Mr Betts was carrying two large flasks of rye which were seldom if ever in his pockets for more than a moment at a time.

'This,' said Meg, gazing with bright eyes upon the cow, 'is the very biggest thing we've stolen yet.'

'By far,' agreed Betts in an awed voice, 'and furthermore, Miss Meg, it lives, breathes, and moves.'

'We just can't let her go,' continued Meg pleadingly in the darkness. 'We must bring her back with us.'

'I have a rope,' said Mercury. 'I found it under here.' He indicated the loading platform of a warehouse squatting swartly in the night.

It must also be said in justice to the three semi-sober conspirators that no cow was ever more willing to be abducted than was this one. The creature actually thrust her head through the noose that Mercury had cleverly contrived. How so gentle and home-loving a creature could have strayed into a car filled with reckless, devil-may-care steers remains one of the unsolved mysteries of cattle transportation. Perhaps some dim, maternal instinct had moved her to follow the destiny of some beast she mistook for her son, or rather, for one of her sons. However that may be, she seemed to realize now that she was in a decidedly unhealthy neighbourhood for cows of any description. It was due to her strong desire to remove herself from this neighbourhood that the team of Meg, Mercury, and Betts was able to return to comparative civilization. They followed the lead of the cow and triumphantly circulated the flask.

'It's a funny thing,' Meg said in a subdued voice as they moved behind their leader down the dark, uneven street, 'but a cow like this, a great, dumb, gentle cow, always makes me wish I had led a better life. I can't bear her eyes.'

'I've led a fairly decent life,' Mercury replied complacently. 'Apart from a little plain and fancy stealing I have nothing to regret.'

'Why, I've always considered you as the world's leading procurer,' answered Meg. 'Please don't disappoint me. Weren't you always arranging parties for the gods?'

'Only as a gifted amateur,' responded the messenger of the gods. 'Never professionally.'

'But you would have made a good professional, don't you think?' Meg asked hopefully, still clinging to her girlhood illusions.

'Oh, if you put it that way,' replied Mercury modestly.

They crossed a wide, gloomily reaching avenue and continued on.

'I've never been able to sin very effectively or consistently,' came the rather depressed voice of Mr Betts. 'A good body-servant unconsciously absorbs the character of his master. Mr Hawk has always been until recently an exceptionally clean-living man.'

'Well, I like that!' exclaimed Meg. 'Do you mean to imply I've soiled him?'

'I hope so, Miss Meg,' answered Betts. 'I hope you've blackened him. You see, I don't hold with overclean living. I think it sort of paralyses one's moral sense. Morals should be kept in a state of constant circulation to be healthy. All progress is due to unmoral persons turning over new leaves.'

'That observation is especially applicable to my time when people wore hardly anything else,' put in Mercury. 'Turning over new leaves in my day was of all sports the most popular.'

Betts and Meg laughed politely at this little sally of the nimble-witted god.

'Sin,' continued Betts, not to be deflected from his train of thoughts, 'that is, so-called sin, is the working capital of religion—all religion. It would sound very presumptuous, wouldn't it, to assure some god every morning and night in your prayers that you were every bit as good as he was? No. The whole system works on sin, and I haven't done enough of it.'

'Well, if stealing's a sin, and it goes by size, you've made up for a lot of lost ground,' Meg told the old man encouragingly.

'I certainly hope so, Miss Meg,' he replied seriously. 'I want it chalked up against me.'

Thus philosophically conversing, the little party came to Broadway. There was not much traffic here at this hour, but there was too much for the cow. In the middle of the crossing she sat down behind a policeman and gave vent to a plaintive moo. Interested to see the automobile that carried such an unusual horn, the policeman turned round and found himself looking into two preternaturally large, humid eyes. He jumped back several feet and startled the cow nearly out of her wits.

'Sweet St Patrick!' breathed the policeman. 'What are you doing with that, lady?'

'That's a cow,' Meg informed the officer.

'I know, I know,' said the policeman impatiently.

'You didn't seem to when you first saw her,' the girl replied accusingly.

'Well,' admitted the officer, 'I did get quite a start, but you've got to admit, lady, a cow is a queer thing to come staring you in the face at this time of the morning on Broadway.'

'What is the most popular cow hour on Broadway?' Meg inquired.

'Any hour but this, lady,' the officer replied wearily.

'Okay, officer,' said Meg snappily; 'then we'll come back some other time. Tweak her tail, Betts.'

The cow responded to the tweaking, and before the policeman had the time to formulate any convincing objection, the cow and its three escorts had crossed the wide thoroughfare and were heading towards Sixth Avenue. At Fifth they were once more checked. Mercury had come to know well and hate heartily the uniform of the law. He decided to outface this one.

'Now, no questions, officer,' he said in a voice of extreme annoyance. 'We're very busy.'

'I'm not going to ask any questions,' replied the officer, looking the party over with an unfriendly eye. 'I'm going to do things and issue orders. The first one is that you can't cross Fifth Avenue with that cow.'

'Why not?' demanded Meg. 'They let us cross every other avenue.'

'Fifth Avenue's different,' the officer replied boastfully. 'Better.'

'Oh, come now, officer,' Meg continued sweetly. 'If you'd say that about Park Avenue we might agree with you, but not Fifth. You know yourself that Fifth Avenue is nothing more than a vulgar, commercial racket. It's just a great gully, officer, filled with envious and acquisitive humanity.'

'Well, it ain't going to be filled with cows,' replied the officer, 'and that's flat.'

'Just one cow, Mr Policeman?' said Meg, her smile fairly dazzling the man. 'Just one little girl cow who doesn't know her way about?'

The officer began to grin.

'You see,' put in Betts respectfully, 'my mistress just got this cow from the slaughter-house.'

'Snatched it from under the blade of the knife,' added Meg.

'And it's going to be raffled off this evening at a charity bazaar,' continued Betts. 'A very fashionable function.'

'So you see, officer,' said Meg with sweet simplicity, 'we have to get this cow across the Avenue. Both she and myself are losing our beauty sleep, as it is.'

'All right, lady,' replied the officer. 'Things can't be much worse than they are. Take your cow and raffle her off.'

'Oh!' exclaimed Meg. 'You startled me. I thought you were going to tell us to do something entirely different with our cow.'

With a coy laugh she bade the puzzled policeman good-bye and the party continued on.

It was fortunate for the success of the expedition that the private entrance provided by the hotel for the exclusive use of Mr Hawk and his guests was situated on an unfrequented, narrow side street and involved no traversings of halls or reception rooms. A small door gave directly to the elevator, and in the elevator dwelt a youth who apparently had no interests in life, not even in his elevator. When a full-grown cow was tightly wedged into it he looked away as if to rest his eyes. And when Meg, Mercury, and Bells filled in the chinks not taken up by cow he closed the cage doors and informed them dispassionately that in all likelihood the elevator would refuse to lift. It did not quite refuse, but its ascent was of a hesitating, uncertain nature.

'It will probably drop,' said the boy, as they passed the tenth floor.

'You waited for the right time to tell us,' replied Meg. 'This is just a nice height for a perfect open break.'

At the fifteenth floor they pried the cow loose, and Mercury gave the boy much stolen money for his silence.

'I never say anything, anyway,' said the boy, 'to anybody. A cow more or less makes no difference, after all the queer things you people have brought up.'

And this was how it came about that a cow was brought to call on Mr Hawk between five and six in the morning.

'I'm very much obliged,' he said at last, looking up from his thoughts, 'for thinking of me in connexion with this cow. Did you happen to find oul her name?'

'No,' replied Meg, 'bul I think she would like Dora.'

'Very good,' continued Hawk. 'The cow's name is Dora. Pour some drinks, Betts, and tell me, Betts, do cows lie down?'

'Well, yes and no, sir,' the old man answered.

'Not yes and no, Betts,' the scientist objected. 'It has to be either yes or no.'

'I mean,' said the servant, looking up from the glasses, 'they don't rightly lie down like a dog. You can't just tell 'em to lie down and expect to be obeyed. It has to come to them, sort of.'

'I have a dog,' observed Hawk, 'who has never lain down once when I've asked him to during the course of our long years of association. He doesn't seem able to get those two words through his brain.'

'He's very much like a cow in that,' commented Betts with a wise shake of his head.

'Perhaps he was already lying down when you first told him to lie down and he mistook it for get up,' said Mercury. 'I did that once to a dog and for ever after I had to tell him to get up whenever I wanted him to lie down.'

'I don't know,' said Mr Hawk. 'Let's get back to this cow, Dora. She'll have to stay here until more suitable arrangements can be made for her. We'll keep this room locked to prevent the chambermaid from finding out.'

'She has a key,' said Mercury.

'Then we'll tell her to stay out,' replied Mr Hawk, 'and later we'll padlock her in her own room. Do you think you could make her lie down now? We should all be getting some sleep. Not much, but some.'

'Why don't you petrify her?' Meg suggested.

'A good idea,' said the scientist, 'but she's only just come. Doesn't seem very hospitable, and it might sour her milk.'

'We can make her lie down,' declared Mercury. 'I'll take her back legs, and, Betts, you take her front, and, Meg, you and Mr Hawk can push. She'll topple over very nicely.'

'Sounds rather brutal,' remarked Mr Hawk, 'but the damn fool should lie down. I suspect she's been travelling for several days and stands in need of a rest.'

Dora, with a look of mild astonishment on her kindly face, allowed herself to be assaulted and toppled over. Once lying comfortably on her broad side, she wondered why someone had not thought of it before. With a deep sigh, she fell asleep and dreamed fitfully of slums.

Half an hour later, after the consumption of several more than enough highballs, Meg and Mr Hawk flung themselves down on their beds. Mercury and Mr Betts were already slumbering peacefully, their heads cushioned on Dora's tan-and-white flank. It was a scene of happy domesticity not usually to be found in a bedroom of a New York hotel.

Meg rolled out of her bed and, slipping off her excuse for a dress, curled up beside Mr Hawk.

'I never could understand the reason for twin beds,' she murmured.

'Suppose you had an enemy or a girl friend?' asked Mr Hawk, sleepily speculative.

'That,' she replied, 'would be a horse of another colour.'

He dropped an arm across her and whispered, 'Sleep.'

Betts and Dora contested bitterly for the audible sleeping honours.

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