The Glorious Pool - 13

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The Glorious Pool


Thorne Smith



THE new and lovely edition of Sue, Mrs. Rex Pebble, stood beside the magic pool, rinsing her soaked garments and regretting not a whit the miraculous plunge that had caused her to ruin one of her favorite gowns. Sue ran admiring hands over her hips. They were beautifully rounded, svelte but well filled, the kind of hips that make cotton look like silk and $17.75 resemble a straight $75. No more lying awake nights planning how to infuse youth into her clothes; no more anguished early mornings of strenuous exercise, or evenings of denying herself the fatal sweets that add weight.

"Look," called Sue Pebble in a voice so musical that it surprised herself, "did you ever see anything neater?"

She indicated her bust with a proud gesture.

"Very good," commented Baggage across the water,

"but I think I'm pretty neat myself." The girl abruptly lifted her skirts, revealing ankles and limbs of graceful beauty. They were, however, somewhat on the classical mold, while Sue Pebble's rejuvenated form was nothing more nor less than the lusciously appealing, smoothly curved figure of a girl in the deceptive neighborhood of twenty.

"No wonder," returned Sue; "You ought to be beautiful. You've been in this pool all your life."

"A hell of a lot of good it did me," came back the sharp answer. "I'd like to know what fun the Venus de Milo ever had. All that ever happened to her was to have her block knocked off." Baggage, out of bitter experience, was deeply scornful of the ways of art.

"I wonder, my dear," said Sue, in the voice of half-abstraction which a beautiful woman uses while she is engaged in examining her figure, "whether you have ever looked at the Venus closely enough?"

"Oh, I've been chipped myself," said Baggage, "but that's just by curiosity-seekers, people you'd meet in any museum. It's no more damaging than riding in a taxi—I should say less so, on the whole. What I mean is, there I was locked up in stone for fifteen years, watching everyone else have fun, while some of them actually used to laugh at me."

"They did?" inquired Sue, but her tone revealed only perfunctory interest. Sue preened here and there, removing wet garments from time to time to get as much look at her new-found loveliness as she possibly could.

She began to wish desperately for a full-length mirror.

"They used to snicker and say, 'Wonder what that old gal would do if she could get down off her pedestal?'"

"Well, my dear, wasn't that just what you were thinking yourself?"

"It certainly was," answered Baggage, "but it was the way they used to say it that burned me up. Of course, my clothes were old-fashioned, but, after all, you can't keep up with the styles if no one will send a sculptor around. Besides, those men do have the most awfully phooey ideas. A sash here and a bow there, and they call it class. Personally, I think clothes are heaven's greatest gift to man. I'd rather tantalize any day than give away the whole show the first time I see a man."

This bit of philosophy seemed to give Mrs. Pebble pause. She shook out her tousled golden curls and a strange light came into her china-blue eyes.

"You know," said Sue, "you start me to thinking. I believe I'll actually have to borrow some of that brazen huzzy's clothes."

"Borrow them?" mocked Baggage. "I've been changing dresses every two hours since I jumped off that rock." She pointed with distaste to the plinth that stood in the center of the pool, lonely and deserted without the adornment of her classical beauty. "When I get through with a dress, I just touch a match to it. I've always wanted clothes to burn."

"How do you get them?" inquired Sue. "Do you know where the clothes closet is?"

"Do I?" asked Baggage. "That's where I parked that red-hot fire-eater I was out with when I first met you in the hall. He's lying under a blanket and two or three old suitcases and some shoes. I thought I'd cover him up so nobody'd take him away till I saw whether I could use him again."

"What's the matter with the poor fellow? Is he ill? Was he overcome?"

"He's just tired," returned Baggage. I thought he needed a good nap, so I just handed him a little poke in the nose."

"I see that I can learn things from you," remarked Sue Pebble, walking around the edge of the pool toward Baggage, who stood nearest the house. "Just now I can't think of anything that would give me greater satisfaction than a small theft from Miss Spray Summers' wardrobe. I hate that woman cordially."

"Oh, I know," answered the girl. "And I do too. She's so damned confident. No woman ought to be as confident of a damned man as she is of your husband. And she has been for years."

"You're telling me," said Sue. "Personally, I don't give a hang much one way or another, but I hate to see the bi—wench have such smooth sailing."

"The nights I've stood out there and watched them," Baggage's words seemed torn out of a searing memory. "At least you would have thought they'd have the decency to keep from in front of me. But no, sir, they seemed proud as pie about it. They hadn't been out in the garden much of late, though."

"You liked my husband, didn't you?" asked Sue Pebble, drawing close to Baggage.

"You mean, I like your husband, responded the girl with determination, "but I don't seem able to get near him with that woman around."

"Well," said Sue, "we're both out after the same scalp. You've helped me a lot, and now I'm going to do something for you. Just come this way and show me that clothes closet."

"We want to be careful not to wake up Bill," Baggage observed, "because if we did he'd probably raise a heck of a squawk and the whole house would come running."

At the precise moment that these two eye-filling figures were moving across the Summers' lawn toward the house, Rex Pebble, inside, reached a decision. He was in no cheerful mood. To have a mistress restored to her pristine beauty and an elderly wife dropped on your hands in a rage of jealousy, perhaps quite justified, is something to add iron-gray hairs to the head. This was one situation in which Rex, an inventor of sorts, could think of nothing to relieve the tension of the situation. And on top of this here was young Kippie telling him the most monstrous kind of ill luck at the office. It appeared that the Rex Pebble fortune was on the eve of being rubbed out. It was horrible to think what both Sue and Spray would have to say, after all these years, in a jam like that. Rex's new-young brows were furrowed with care.

The group on the whole was a congenial one. There was Major Jaffey, who since the dramatic departure of Joe, his banking prospect, with Elmer, had no one but Rex to whom he could confide his world-shaking ideas. There was Hal, the faithful fireman, who had stayed on after his fellows had gone. Nockashima, feeling the call for food, was busily preparing a steak on the capable-looking electric stove, at the same time feeding Mr. Henry from a baby's bottle. Mr. Henry had doffed his ferocious king of the jungle headdress and was now nothing more or less than a playful bloodhound puppy, who frisked about the kitchen, exhilarated by his brand-new sense of smell. There was plenty to smell in that room. Steak, highballs, toasting bread, and the various alluring scents of Spray, Sue, and Fifi, not to mention Baggage, who had passed to and fro through the place.

"I could make a suggestion or two," Kippie was saying, "only I'm afraid of getting my head snapped off."

His uncle turned on the youth, though actually to an outsider it would have looked as though one youth were turning viciously on another.

"None of your funny ideas," said Rex Pebble, shaking a vigorous forefinger in an elderly way that was quite incongruous with his dapper appearance. "I suppose you don't think it's enough to have imported your dear aunt into this madhouse? That idea ought to last you for about a month."

"But this is a dandy thought, Uncle Rex," explained Kippie. "I wish you'd give me a chance to tell you about it. It's about an invention."

"Oh, yeah?" Rex's tone was bitter. I suppose you want me to start a nudist colony or a health-giving springs resort founded on that blasted pool."

"Not at all," returned Kippie. "All I'd like to see you do is get back the blueprint of the mouse trap that fellow got away from you."

"Rats!" said Rex appropriately. "I hoped I'd forgotten that. There may have been money in it, but I was gypped, and the fellow got away with the plans, and that's that." He dismissed the subject.

"Wouldn't you get it back if you could sell it and save us on margin?" Young Kippie's tone was sly.

"Nocka, when you're through torturing that piece of meat," Mr. Pebble addressed his small servant, "I think it would be a good idea to open up a bottle of brandy for Mr. Kippie. I can't think of anything but brandy and women that will keep him quiet, and of these two, drink is the lesser evil."

"O.K., O.K.!" Kippie was quick to jump at whatever came his way, "but if I ever get a chance myself, I'm going to get that mouse trap back, and the world will beat a path to my door."

"I don't seem to need mouse traps to get the world to my door." Rex glanced around the room, which seemed wilted in its state of disarray. No one had bothered to pick up the glasses of the late firemen's ball. In fact, the only difference in the room was that other glasses had been added by the more recent inhabitants.

"Down, Mist' Henry, down!" Nockashima pushed the eager bloodhound away from the sizzling skillet and hastened to produce the bottle of brandy. It was old and mellow, and it had the look of belonging in an inn in Normandy on a cold midnight, when the innkeeper, maids, and attendants gathered round the kitchen.

"What's Spray doing?" inquired Kippie eagerly. "I thought she liked brandy too."

"She does, you young hound," responded his uncle, "which is all the more reason for you to confine your thoughts to yourself. I'd hate to think of letting you loose with Spray Summers in her present state. As though I hadn't enough troubles. Did you ever think, young man, that you ought to get married and settle down?"

"What brings that up?" asked Kippie. "You got married, but I never noticed that you settled down. The fact is, I suspect there's been a lot more going on around here tonight than anyone knows."

"We haven't been around here much tonight," Major Jaffey defended his host. "We've been out riding and all sorts of things."

"Yeah," said Hal, "you'd be surprised if you knew all the places we've been and the things we've done."

Kippie preferred the main line of discourse. He accepted a brandy from Nockashima, who passed drinks to the others as well.

"Suppose, then," the young man countered, "if you want me to settle down, that I ask you for Spray Summers' hand?"

"That would be a hell of a note," rejoined his uncle.

"Seems perfectly proper to me. She's a lifelong acquaintance of yours, sort of a friend of the family, as it were. You could give her away."

"How could she tell us apart?" parried the older man.

"There're ways—we're not twins."

"You don't know that."

"I hope we're not. You could just as well be your own nephew. That would make you completely backwards."

"I am now, but what I want to know is, why should you think you'd like to marry Spray Summers?"

"Because she's a nice girl."

"I can see that everything's different," objected Rex. "That was certainly never the reason I was attracted to her."

"Oh, well, she's changed."

"She couldn't change that much. Besides, I have reason to believe differently."

"Supposing I were to get older, could I marry her then?"

"Not without my consent."

"But if you're where you were twenty years ago, you don't know whether I have your consent or not. You aren't yourself. You're what you used to be."

Rex Pebble saw that it was time to put a stop to this harangue. "I can see that you're where you be, and apparently always will be—standing beside a bottle. Don't try confuse me any more than I am. That is, unless you can relieve my mind of that overdraft account."

"That's the great disadvantage, remarked Kippie sagely, "that you grow backwards in everything but difficulties. Maybe you can find a pool that turns bonds into gold."

"Give Mr. Kippie some hot food, Nockashima," instructed the young man's uncle, "and let's see if we can't stop the flow of his thoughts. I'm going out for some air."

Rex Pebble strode out onto the veranda. It was queer, he thought, that one's necessities should be so insatiable. Here, by a gentle miracle of a prankish and beneficent stone figure, the one person dearest to him in the world was restored to her youth and the ripe physical beauty that had caught him up in passion in his younger years, and yet he wasn't satisfied. First there was in his mind the vision of Sue Pebble, his wife, as she looked at the lovely Spray with jealous envy in her eyes. Sue had not been a bad wife to him, in spite of her frequent flirtations and her stormy temperament. Certainly Rex had lived for more than twenty years in the same house with Sue, and that was something he had not done with Spray, for all her charm. It worked both ways. Seeing Spray in the evenings, when women are able by artificial charms and the conspiracy of nature to appear most glamorous, had added to her attractions, kept them perennially stirring to the man. Seeing Sue in the daylight, with the white glaring atmosphere of practicality about her, had taken away from her feminine appeal and had added to her reassuring stability. He felt sorry for Sue that she should be so unfortunately placed in the all too penetrating spotlight of everyday life. She had been robbed of a part of her woman's heritage. Rex Pebble felt on the point of tears. He felt sorry for himself too. For here, with Spray restored to him, and himself, too, young again, and with a new feeling toward Sue, the unhappy business of money had shown its ugly head.

It was at moments like this, when the world seemed pitch black and without point, that Nockashima seldom failed to appear to comfort his boss. The Japanese appeared now.

"Mist' Kippie and Mist' Henry fed and bottled," he announced. "Good idea catch breath of air on lawn. Just hear noise in upper story also—feel safer outdoors."

"You're right," agreed Rex Pebble, "I was afraid of that. It's much safer outdoors. What are they doing?" Rex glanced toward the upper floors of his mistress's home. Something very queer was going on. Lights were flashing here and there, as though someone were running from room to room, switching them on and off. "Is somebody playing tag?" asked Rex.

"Sounds as of great whoopee. Loud manly answered screams. Have idea Miss Baggage on loose," answered the wise little man. "Also Miss Spray and honorable wife up to old tricks."

"You mean they're having an argument over, me?"

"Cannot tell subject, but quite plenty redhot, boss. It appear much hair-pulling."

"Well, I think I'll just take a little pull at that bottle you so thoughtfully brought along, my good fellow," said Rex, relieving Nockashima of his pet. "This is good stuff, indoors or out, with wife or mistress, at home or abroad." Rex, who had not indulged deeply during the entire adventurous evening, took a long drag and smacked his lips. "We ought to think of a nice game ourselves," he suggested. "You and I ought to get together and play something. We never have."

"What shall it be, boss?" asked Nockashima, whose chief charm, perhaps, was the complete readiness with which he embraced any new suggestion of adventure or diversion. "Leapfrog?"

"I'm afraid I might hurt you," said Rex, "and then again you might hurt me. I don't trust that ju-jutsu."

"Me no ju-jutsu artist," Nockashima declared, "just humble Japanese fellow anxious to play. Suppose call Mist' Henry. He always ready to play, too."

"O.K.!" said Rex Pebble, "get the hound. One bloodhound more or less can't hurt." Rex chased his first brandy with another quick one. The tempo and warmth of his s blood was pleasantly speedy. "Here, Nocka, let's see you toss one off. That's the first requirement for a really good game of any kind."

"Here goes!" Nocka held up the brandy bottle. A shiver raced over his small, sturdy frame. "Hot stuff that. Make plenty warm belly. Very comforting. Hi, Mist' Henry," the man called in his peculiar way, ending in a low, tempting whistle that could not have been duplicated by another human being. His mouth was large and usually fixed in an irrepressible grin that produced in the whistle a quality of escaping steam, which wound up in a surprisingly sharp note of command. A racing figure hesitated uncertainly just outside the door to the veranda, while a screen door slammed shut.

"Mist' Henry very smart dog, even when honorable battery recharged. Not silly. Very sensible bloodhound with new acquired smell."

"Let's hide from him," proposed Rex boyishly. "I think I can get behind that tree."

Let it be said for Rex that he tried to get behind the tree. The trouble was' that the tree would not get in front of Rex. It wobbled and wavered and behaved in a fashion totally unprecedented in Rex's memory. Mr. Henry, entering gayly into the spirit of the chase, was dangerously near, seeming to prefer the scent of Rex to Nockashima's more obvious smell, lurking beside the stone veranda steps. Rex Pebble helped himself to a short choke of brandy before attempting again to cope with the tree. Hoping to appease the thing and make an ally of it, he offered the tree a swallow of brandy in a low tone. The tree continued to dance but refused to accept the man's hospitality. Wherewith Rex dashed a small slosh of brandy against its trunk and silently christened it the Sally Rand. "Stop it, Sally," whispered the husky male voice, "you make me dizzy, and how can you expect me to find coverage in a game of hide-and-seek behind such a whirling dervish?"

The tree was utterly obstinate. It would not hold still. Rex grew quickly disgusted, as Mr. Henry appeared to get hotter and hotter on the scent. The man lunged from behind the tree and sought the protection of some near-by bushes. These two were addicted to the dance, but in a much smoother, more classic sort of way. They held hands gracefully and loped about like the figures of a Greek frieze. It was not so hard to conceal oneself behind them or in them. The bushes, however, did have very sticky fingers, and they kept pricking Rex here and there most irritatingly. "Behave," growled the man fiercely, "or I'll not give you a drop of brandy, not a single little drop. I won't even baptize you, and how you'd like to go all your life unbaptized? Just imagine, no name, no nothing. By the way, are you all sisters, or am I seeing more of one family than there really is? To think that I've been in and out of here all these years and never knew what charming neighbors we had."

Mr. Henry, dashing up and enthusiastically licking Mr. Pebble's hands and face, cut short this monologue, while Nokashima stepped forth rather unsteadily from hiding and suggested that another game would not be amiss.

"You it," he told Rex.

"Don't be cryptic," replied his playmate. "I it—what do you mean?"

"Just that—you it."

"Haven't you any verbs?" Rex interrogated sharply. "Can't explain," said Nockashima thickly. "You tell him, Mist' Henry. Tell him he it."

"Stop it!" commanded Mr. Pebble. "This is the worst language I have ever heard. I'm surprised at you. You could curse me out with words like that, and I wouldn't know the difference. What are your antecedents?"

"Got no ant'cedents, however, nevertheless," said Nocka. "Very simple. We play game now."

"Not till I get it straight. Explain it this way: Suppose there were four of us playing?"

"Me tell him tell them tell you you it."

"Impossible!" exploded Rex. "You're either a genius or rapidly descending into the moronic stage. Do you always go after the pronouns when you have drinks, Nocka?"

"If good-looking," admitted Nockashima, "especially fond just plain she. No it. Lady them best of all."

Rex sighed heavily. More and more it seemed useless to try to understand; yet the man evidently had something in his mind. "Well, supposing I consent, what do we do next?"

"Absorb small drink," said Nockashima quickly, his eyes gleaming. "Very intoxicating evening. Stimulating to all concerned. Most enjoyable part of evening now in progress for unspeakable Japanese man. Great fun at games." Nockashima interrupted his flow of bouquets long enough to take a good firm hold on the brandy and pour a fiery trickle down his throat. "Hot dog, let's go!" he cried.

"What shall we play now, you insatiable Oriental athlete?" asked Rex Pebble of the diminutive man, who danced round him in glee, rubbing his stomach happily with both hands.

"Now we skip steps," said Nocka.

"Yes, Nocka, I know," answered Rex sympathetically, "I've skipped steps too, but I never tried it as a pastime. However, nothing ventured, nothing learned." He followed Nockashima to the steps.

"Oh, infinite more humor, boss, to skip steps. I begin," and with a pleased expression in his tiny eyes Nockashima flew up and down the steps on nimble feet, skipping to the tune of a very weird chant that only Nocka, and maybe God, knew.

To Rex Pebble this demonstration of the crazy little fellow was the last straw. He felt himself slipping, his poise seemed to have vanished, and with a last effort he pulled himself together to call for a drink. As always, the magic word brought Nockashima to his senses and his shaker, in this case a brandy bottle.

"Watch me," said Rex, standing on the top step of four, "with a running start I bet I can stop before I get to the water. Wait, though," the man added, "suppose you go get a watch and we'll time each other. We'll have races. Mr. Henry can hold the watch."

"O.K.," said Nocka agreeably. I go get timepiece." Nockashima hurried on unsteady legs into the house.

Left alone, Rex Pebble felt the gayety of the games slipping away from him. His forehead was warm and moist. Instead of four steps there seemed to be eight, instead of one tree there seemed to be two. It was nice, anyway, he calculated, that things worked out so evenly. Just double of everything. That was fine. He wondered if there were two bottles of brandy instead of one, and indeed there were. Not only two bottles, but just twice the amount of brandy as in the one bottle. Rex began to speculate as to how this other bottle of brandy might taste. Would it be different, or would it taste the same, and if he drank out of the one, would it reduce the amount in the other? It waa a charming speculation that left room for a great many discoveries. If there were one Spray Summers now, that would mean two—only the disadvantage would be that his wife, Sue Pebble, also would be multiplied by two. Which would mean that the fight between the two women would be twice as fierce and, also, alas, if Rex's overdraft were now $25,000, under the present system of computation, that would mean a deficit of $50,000.

It was all very distressing. Rex began to feel that he couldn't stand it. If under normal conditions it would take Nockashima two minutes to find a watch, this would mean four minutes before he could return and the happy games be resumed. Rex began greatly to feel the need of water on his forehead. He decided to take a chance on reducing the amount of brandy, which was now double, and lifting the two bottles with both hands, drank with both mouths.

Well, at least it was consoling to think that he had four legs to walk on. This happy thought produced a decision. Rex looked toward the inviting waters of the pool. A little dip would do him good, he thought. On all four legs he began to gallop to the edge. His forefeet were over the side and touching the water before he remembered that there was something strange and magic about this small body of water, something that had brought him new youth and vigor and that might very likely handle him roughly if indulged in too liberally. It was too late, however, to stop. He plunged into the gratefully cooling waters and waited curiously to see what might happen.

What did happen was most shocking. A contracting sensation overtook the man, shook his frame with short spasms as though he were being pushed bodily into a hot-water bottle that was too tight for him. He underwent a brief siege of choking, his eyes blurred as though with fever.

With rapidly diminishing strength Rex beat back the water. He tried breast and crawl strokes and then a general sort of floundering, but it was easy to perceive that something very unusual was taking place within him. Either he was losing his strength altogether to some unknown inner tax of power, or else, perhaps, the magic pool was busy doing its stuff again. Rex Pebble began to grow alarmed. With the greatest difficulty he managed to keep his head above the surface of the water. He raised his voice to call Nockashima, but nothing happened. Rex had yelled, and he had heard nothing. He cleared his throat and took a fresh start.

"Nockashima," he screamed, and as though from afar, strange and unfamiliar as the voice of a babe, he caught a minute sound: Nockashima! Rex was very quiet. This was terrible. He couldn't make a sound. Suppose he should drown? But the water couldn't be that deep; no one could possibly drown in Spray Summers' handsomely landscaped garden pool. A man would have to be an utter fool, holding his head under, to do that. Rex looked down at the glistening surface.

What he observed, floating like jelly beneath the silver surface, was something to startle a city editor. This time Rex could not believe his eyes. The brandy was no good. Too bad to spoil a nice evening this way; it had started out so glamorously, so memorably, and now here he was, whisky and highballs and gin and brandy, imagining the oddest things about his own silly body reflected in a garden pool. Rex summoned his courage and endeavored to take a realistic view of the whole matter. He glanced down into the water, and what he saw this time made him start in amazement and chagrin. Eyes may be bad reporters the first time you send them out, but the second, they have to tell the truth; and the truth was cruel. Rex Pebble put all the lung command into one mighty screech for Nockashima. Across the lawn came the piercing cry of an infant. There was no doubt of the horrifying truth; Rex Pebble ducked his head under water. It popped up again in shame and mortification. Where only a few moments before had been the whipcord, vigorous, handsome form of a young man was now the sprawling body of a baby. "Oh, my God!" murmured the strange infant, then howled aloud again for its faithful Japanese follower.

Nockashima, hastening on nimble but uncertain feet into the garden with a watch for the impending races, was bewildered at the disappearance of his employer. There was not a sign of the man in sight. No bottle, no coat, no trace of him anywhere. Even Mr. Henry had vanished. Nocka unsteadily beat around the bushes, and then, remembering Rex's penchant for hiding behind trees, began to startle imaginary playmates by dodging around and crying hi! wherever he went. Anyone watching the fellow would have thought him utterly stark, raving mad. Liquor has its novel effects, but the game which Nockashima seemed to be playing with himself was gone about in a spirit of absolutely logical insanity.

Nevertheless, no tree yielded Rex Pebble. Nocka grew uneasy. What could boss have done with self? He cogitated. Nocka felt sure the master had been having a very fine time when he had left only a few minutes before, and it was totally out of keeping with his character for him entirely to abandon an object while in his cups. Nocka counted off on his fingers various improbabilities: Rex had not run away; he had not hidden playfully anywhere on the lawn; he certainly had not gone indoors, for Nocka had just come from the house through the only door that opened onto the veranda. The Japanese was genuinely disturbed and puzzled.

Then he heard the cry. It was a baby's importunate yell to be tended to, and at first Nocka imagined that the long-awaited heir had at last arrived next door. The little fellow was feeling rather fine, and he felt glad that the anxious parents had finally been blessed. Complacently he went on to enumerate the possibilities of the whereabouts of his boss.

The baby cried again. There's really very little to consider deeply about a baby's cry unless it comes late at night and keeps one awake, or unless one is the father of the infant and has to walk the floor with it. Nockashima, however, pricked up his ears sharply the second time he heard this particular baby cry. It was not the tone exactly that electrified his small Oriental being: it was what the baby said. Nocka was standing fairly near the water from which the cry seemed to emanate; he could not have been mistaken.

"Goddamn it, you dopey Jap," said the high falsetto, speaking, however, in crisp, careful enunciation, "come here this minute and drag me out of this pool before I shrivel up to nothing. Quick, I tell you—I'm on my way!"

Nockashima had seen a lot of queer things in his life, but now he was dumbfounded. Horror rendered him speechless. He dreaded to turn his eyes to the pool because of the sight which he was sure would greet him. And it did.

For there, struggling and breasting the surface as best it could, was a babe of perhaps one year old, greatly impeded by long trousers, a dress shirt, and a tuxedo coat.

"Well," said the mind of Rex Pebble through the voice of the babe-in-arms, "don't stand there all night. That is, unless you want to lose the best boss you ever had. I'll be subtracted to zero if you don't hurry. I think I must be down to about one year now. Only a year left to go, and I'm going backward fast."

The startled house man recovered sufficiently to rush to his employer's rescue. With tender care he reached down and lifted the squirming form from the water. Nockashima felt an almost fatherly pride as he cupped the infant in his arms. Life had its compensations. He had never dreamed that he would hold Rex Pebble in this fashion. The quaint fellow began to croon what he imagined was a lullaby as he started toward the house, rocking his impromptu cradle back and forth to the melody. It wasn't hard for Nockashima to rock, not in his condition.

"Stop that!" remarked the baby harshly. "Don't you think it's bad enough to have to endure this final mortification, without being sung to? Get me a brandy-and-soda, and make it snappy!"

Seldom had Nockashima heard such commands from the sweet mouth of a new-born. Seldom, either, had he observed so ludicrous a costume as Rex Pebble wore, the long trousers drooping and dripping far beyond the tender pink toes they concealed.

With a curious mixture of feelings and a very unsteady walk, the little yellow man crossed the lawn with his new charge to the home of Rex Pebble's mistress.

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