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Rain In The Doorway
"I'M somewhat hazy on that point," Mr. Owen replied. "Seems as if I had. Why?"
"Nothing at all," she answered. "I was merely wondering if your sex impulses had ever been thwarted."
"What's that to you?" he asked.
"Again, nothing at all." she assured him. "Only it makes one a little cracked when that happens."
"You don't look so seamy." Mr. Owen was ungallant enough to observe as he considered the girl's gracious moulding.
"Why should I?" she demanded.
"Don't ask me." he answered defensively. "I don't know whether you should or shouldn't. It's none of my business."
"It certainly is some of your business," she told him, returning his gaze with an appraising eye. "You don't think I'm going to let you or any other man thwart my sex impulses, do you?"
"I don't give a hang about your horrid old sex impulses." he retorted. "Have I tried to stop you?"
"From what?" she wanted to know.
Mr. Owen looked blankly at her.
"From whatever you want to do when you carry on like that," he answered lamely.
"Well," she snapped, "you haven't been any too encouraging. You haven't puffed or panted or rolled your eyes or tried to find out things like other men do."
"Do you want me to rush about after you like an exhausted masseur?" he demanded.
"No," she replied, "but you haven't even insulted me so far."
"Would that be possible?" he asked.
"No," she replied dispassionately, "but it's nice, just the same. A girl gets to expect it. Your partners make indecent proposals whenever they get the chance. Nothing discourages them."
"Do you try?" Mr. Owen asked quickly, surprised by the keenness of his interest.
"Why do you want to know?" she demanded, drawing near the man.
"I don't," he disclaimed hastily. "I don't care if you encourage the War Veterans of the World."
"Who are they?" she asked with sudden interest, then her eyes snapped dangerously. "Oh," she continued, "so you don't care, do you? Well. I'll fix you. I'll damn well lay you out with the dirtiest book I can find."
"Then what will you do?" Mr. Owen inquired.
"Lay myself out beside you," she fumed.
"With an equally dirty book, no doubt," he caustically added.
"Yes," she said, snatching up a heavy volume of A Thousand and One Nights. "This ought to settle your hash."
It probably would have, had not Mr. Owen ducked at the last minute. A Thousand and One Nights consequently descended upon the head of a near-sighted but otherwise unremarkable gentleman, whose nose, previously nearly buried in a book, was now completely interred. When presently the nose found strength enough to rise from its lewd resting place, the gentleman behind it glared at the innocent Owen through tears of rage and pain.
"That," said the man, as if explaining the incident to himself, "was an unnecessarily dirty trick."
"It was an unnecessarily dirty book," Mr. Owen replied soothingly. "It barely missed my head."
"Well, here's one you won't miss," grated the gentleman, and before Mr. Owen could duck he received full upon the top of his skull the entire contents of Fanny Hill, illustrations and all. As he staggered back from the blow he felt a heavy tome being slipped into his hand. Several other salesgirls were arming themselves with erotic literature for the defence of their assaulted leader.
"Pat him with this," a voice said in Mr. Owen's ear. "It's a bronze-bound Boccaccio. If that doesn't settle his hash I'll have a swell Rabelais ready."
"You're bound to settle somebody's hash," Mr. Owen muttered with a grunt as he drove Boccaccio down upon the other gentleman's head. "Better his hash than mine. I hope that did it!"
Apparently it had. The twice-flattened nose descended to rise no more of its own volition. Boccaccio had made a lasting impression. The body was speedily removed, and business went on as usual. Mr. Owen thanked the salesgirls for their ready support, then turned back to the one who had made him her special province.
"Just where were we?" he asked, then remembering that they had not been at such an agreeable place, added, "Let's begin a little farther back."
"How much farther back?" she asked. "Before all this rotten pornography?"
"Oh," said Mr. Owen hopefully, "then you're not so fond of pornography yourself?"
For a moment the girl looked at him defiantly.
"Suppose I'm not?" she demanded. "I can take it or leave it, just as I like. You don't have to wallow in pornography to be pornographic yourself. I'm a very erotic woman, I am. So erotic I can hardly stand being in the same section with you. I don't know what might happen."
"Don't let it," pleaded Mr. Owen. "I haven't quite found my sea legs yet."
"You haven't even looked at my land ones," the girl shot back.
"Let's not go into that any more," he begged her. "Do you mean that you find it difficult to be caged in here with me, or would you experience the same feeling with just any other man?"
"With any other man," she replied, "so long as he wasn't dead or too badly damaged."
Mr. Owen's face fell. His disappointment was obvious.
"Oh," he said somewhat flatly, "that's nice if you like it."
"Not that you don't affect me differently," she went on, smiling up at him. "I find my sex life rapidly approaching yours. It may be to-day. It may be to-morrow. It may be the next day at the very latest. Whenever it is, they're going to meet like a couple of ten-ton trucks."
"Does it necessarily have to be as violent as all that?" he asked uneasily. "Sounds sort of rough to me."
"It will be rough enough, no fear," she replied. "There's something about you that arouses my most primitive instincts. I don't know what it is, but it makes me simply filthy. Feel as if I want to shock you out of your wits."
"You have already," said Mr. Owen, "and I don't even know your name."
"It's Honor Knightly," she told him, "but people call me Satin because of my skin. I'll show you that later—all of it, if you like."
"No," said Mr. Owen, a little terrified. "Only some. It is like satin, though, all smooth and everything."
"You don't know the half of it," she boasted. "I'll open your eyes to something extra special in the line of skin!"
"You're too good to me," murmured Mr. Owen unenthusiastically, as he thought of the tremendous amount of skin he was slated to see on or before the day after tomorrow at the latest.
"Qh, I get fun out of it, too," said the girl almost gloatingly. "I get a lot of fun."
"I'm sure you must," remarked Mr. Owen. "But, tell me, Satin, do all young ladies about here talk like you?"
"Oh, no," the girl declared. "Most of them are not at all afraid of calling a spade a spade—perfectly unrestrained, they are."
"Not like you," he suggested.
"Not a bit," she admitted. "I like things clean but nice. You know—ladylike."
"Have you a decent dictionary?" a studious-looking gentleman inquired, leaning over the counter towards the girl.
"No," said the girl briefly. "All our dictionaries are indecent. Full of obscene words."
"I know all those," said the man.
"You do like hell," snapped Satin. "How about this one?"
She leaned over and whispered a word in the man's ear.
"What does it mean?" he asked in an awed voice.
Once more she whispered in the man's ear. "My word," he said, his eyes growing round. "Does it mean all that?"
"And more," the girl replied. Turning to Mr. Owen, who was curious in spite of himself, she added, "Now, if I wasn't a lady I'd have said all that right out loud."
"Thank God you didn't," murmured the gentleman. "On second thought, I think I'll buy one of those dictionaries."
"It's called the Little Gem Desk Dictionary Of Obscene Words," she told him, passing him the book. "It's standard. You'll find it quite a comfort, especially when you're mad."
"I've a friend on the faculty who loves indecent words," the studious gentleman informed her, tucking the book in his pocket. "Of course, when nicely used."
"Most members of faculties love indecent words," Satin declared. "It comes from dealing with the young."
"What are you doing for luncheon?" the gentleman asked her, to Mr. Owen's annoyance.
"Too bad," said Miss Honor Knightly with sincere regret. "I'm dated up to-day. You see, among my other means of making extra pin money," and here Mr. Owen found himself wondering about those ways, "I act as executive secretary for the Kiarians. They're holding their monthly luncheon to-day, and I have to take notes of the proceedings. It's an awful trial. I'm glad I know a lot of dirty words. One needs them at a Kiarian meeting, I assure you."
"I should imagine," replied the gentleman, "it would be even worse than dealing with the young. Some other day, perhaps."
"You'd be surprised," Satin informed Mr. Owen, when the gentleman and his dirty dictionary had taken themselves off, "how many invitations I get since I've taken charge of the Pornographic Department."
"No, I wouldn't," Mr. Owen assured her.
"Yes, yes," Honor went on, happily reminiscent. "I'd never suffer from insomnia if I took advantage of all my opportunities."
"Do you ever suffer from insomnia?" he asked, white nights from the past dimly stirring his memory.
“Terribly," said Satin, "when I'm all upset and erotic. But I won't any more now that you are here. There'll be no need of insomnia to keep me awake. I like things clean but nice."
"Oh, you like things clean but nice," Mr. Owen observed moodily. "I'll admit you make them clear enough. I'd never mistake one of your spades for a teething spoon, by any chance. But don't delude yourself. I'm not going to be here for long. I'm going away."
"Then I'm going to ask the partners if they won't give you to me," the girl declared.
"Oh, they'll say yes," Mr. Owen told her, "but it won't mean a thing. They're like that—impulsive. Then they forget."
"But I don't," said the girl. "And your number's up. Don't you forget."
"It must be a high one," Mr. Owen answered in a really mean spirit.
She looked at him.
"When my sex has dominated yours," she told him, looking rather mean herself, "I'm going to make you suffer for your rotten little wisecracks. See if I don't."
A page boy appeared to inform Mr. Owen that the partners were awaiting his pleasure. As he prepared to follow the boy he observed with some satisfaction the expression of irritation on Miss Honor Knightly's undeniably pretty face.
"You haven't told me that word," he tossed at her casually. "You know, the one you whispered in the man's ear."
"No?" she replied. "Well, lean over and I will." Mr. Owen leaned over and waited. Why did he want to know? he wondered. His orderly mind assured him it was because she had told the other man. Was it possible he was morbidly jealous? He felt her breath fanning lightly on his cheek. Her lips brushed the lobe of his ear. Then her teeth seized it and, so far as he was concerned, bit it off. In his anguish Mr. Owen involuntarily released several of the dirtiest words he knew.
"It was none of those," she told him. "And now you will never know."
"How can you talk so clearly," he asked her huskily, "with the lobe of my ear in your mouth, or did you swallow it?"
"How common you are," she remarked coldly. "I don't like vulgar men. The boy is waiting."
Tenderly feeling his ear, Mr. Owen followed the boy to the senior partner's private office. Here he was enthusiastically received and escorted up to one of the largest cocktail shakers he had ever seen. The Major, owing to his strength and size, was wrestling with this frost-coated vessel.
"It's nice to drink a lot of cocktails before luncheon," Mr. Larkin was telling everyone. "Of course, if you drink a whole lot of them you get quite drunk, but then, getting drunk is sort of nice, too."
Mr. Owen received this surprising shred of information with a proper display of interest as he accepted a glass from the hands of the hovering Dinner. After he had swallowed its contents he was inclined to agree with Mr. Larkin. "It's nice to get drunk before dinner, too," quoth the Major, his deep voice rumbling pleasantly through the room.
"One can't get drunk before Dinner," the senior partner put in. "Dinner is always drunk."
"No," the small man objected. "He's always getting drunk, but he never quite is—not dead, I mean."
"Come! Come!" cried Mr. Larkin hospitably. "Drink up, everybody. To the new partner and the old ones. We simply have to get a skinful to stand that Kiarian luncheon."
"Oh," said Mr. Owen, visions of Satin in his mind and prints of her teeth in his ear. "Is that where we're going?"
"It is," replied the Major gloomily. "I'd much rather take you to a sporting house or a gambling dive."
"So would I," agreed Mr. Larkin. "I told him to remind me about brothels. Now, don't forget everybody, bring up brothels."
Mr. Dinner produced his notebook and made a painstaking entry.
"I have it down in black and white," he announced, looking up from his book. "Here it is," and he read: "Everyone is to remind H. Larkin about brothels."
"That's almost too black and white," observed Mr. Larkin. "In case you were found dead, I wouldn't want people to get the idea I had to be constantly reminded about brothels. No normal man should be as absent-minded as all that, should he? I know I'm not."
"No," said Mr. Dinner, his eyes blinking thoughtfully. "What you need is someone not to remind you of them. Suppose I put down a note like this: Everybody is to try to keep H. Larkin's mind off brothels. How would that do?"
"It won't do," Mr. Larkin replied after a thoughtful pause. "People might get the impression I thought altogether too much about such places, and I wouldn't like that, would you, Mr. Owen? You wouldn't like it noised abroad that you just couldn't think of anything else even if you seldom did."
"Certainly not," Mr. Owen agreed, and tossed off another cocktail. There was nothing out of the ordinary about this conversation. They were all jolly good fellows, sound, sensible men, and they drank delicious cocktails.
"You see?" cried Mr. Larkin. "He agreed with me. Put that notebook away, Dinner. There are some things I should be allowed to handle for myself. Besides, after we've finished that shaker, I think we'll all be primed to call on Hadly at the bank and demand a line of personal credit for our new partner. He has to have some money, you know, or else he'll be spending all of ours."
The two other partners looked at Mr. Owen with frankly alarmed eyes. Evidently it was a decidedly disagreeable possibility.
"No," murmured the Major, "that wouldn't be so good."
"Good," gasped Mr. Dinner. "It would be just awful. Let's rush to the bank."
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