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Rain In The Doorway
THE HOUR GROWS LATE
"I'M not in a hurry," gasped Mr. Owen, backing out of the room. "I'm in a whirl."
"Come back!" called the woman as he sped in the direction of the other bathroom. "I won't look."
This invitation served only to increase Mr. Owen's speed. He reached the door, flung it open, and dashed inside, slamming it behind him. Almost immediately the two ladies in the beds were treated to a series of animal-like cries such as they had never heard before. Mingled with them were the entreating notes of a woman's voice.
"My God!" cried Honor. "A woman's got him in that one. To the rescue!"
Merging the worst features of their seemingly one and only interest in life, the two women sprang from their beds and raced to the bathroom door.
"Come out of there!" cried Honor.
"What are you doing now?" called the more imaginative Madame Gloria.
"Wrestling with a woman," came from Mr. Owen in grunts, "and she's all wet and naked."
"I'll fix her," grated Satin. "Which way are you wrestling—for or against?"
"Why don't you answer?" cried Madame Gloria nervously. "We can't see a thing. Why is the door locked? We want to know everything."
"Well, you can't be a Graham McNamee in the arms of a naked woman," Mr. Owen panted as caustically as conditions would permit. "Especially a wet one with soap all over her. I can't grab hold."
"Of what?" asked Satin.
"Of anything," called Mr. Owen.
"That's just as well," put in Madame Gloria.
"If you two molls would go away," came the voice of the woman behind the door, "I'd soon have him eating out of my hand."
"I'd rather see him starve first," said Madame Gloria in a tragic voice.
"I don't give a damn about his appetite," put in Satin. "I'm worrying about his buff, whatever that may be."
"Yes," agreed Madame Gloria. "He seemed to set a great deal of store by that buff. We have to get him out." She rattled the door furiously. "Why don't you come out?" she cried. "Unlock the door, and we'll drag you out."
"I'm trying to," Mr. Owen called back, "but my hand is trembling so I can't turn the key."
"All right," broke in the disgusted voice of his captor. "All right. Go on out. I don't want a nervous wreck."
In the meantime the lady in the other bathroom, hearing the noise, had emerged drippingly, clad strategically in a towel.
"Where'd he go?" she inquired of the other two. "I caught only a glimpse of him."
At this moment the bathroom door flew open, and she caught another. Mr. Owen found himself between two fires with the light from behind flooding down on the scene. He took one paralysed look at all the bare flesh by which he was surrounded; then, snatching the towel from the clutches of the first bathing woman, flung it over his head.
"Back to your places!" he screamed. "Back to your beds and baths, or I'll throw you all out on your——"
"On our whats?" demanded Satin.
"On your ears," he retorted. "Make it snappy."
There was a patter of bare feet, then quiet settled down.
"You may come out from under that towel now," Satin's voice proclaimed.
"I'm going to live beneath this towel for the remainder of my life," he answered firmly.
"I think you're about to lose a button," Madame Gloria said comfortably from the pillow. "The button. I'd be inclined to suppose."
With great promptitude Mr. Owen snatched the towel from his head and flipped it round his waist.
"You've got four of us now," observed Satin. "What are you going to do with so many?"
"I'll show you," said Mr. Owen, striding over to the telephone. "I'm going to have you all chucked out."
"On our ears?" inquired Honor.
"I don't give a damn what they chuck you out on," he retorted into the transmitter.
"And as for me," came back a voice over the wire, "I don't give a damn if they slit your throat from ear to ear."
"I wasn't talking to you," Mr. Owen hastened to explain to the operator at the other end. "I'm sorry. Please give me the desk."
"Oh, that's all right," the girl's voice replied. "If you've no objection to my sex I'll come up there and help you to chuck them out myself, whoever they may be."
"For God's sake, don't," he cried. "I'm oversexed already. I want the room clerk."
"The room clerk!" exclaimed the girl. "What on earth does a man in your condition want with the room clerk?"
Mr. Owen emitted a howl of rage.
"Calm yourself, dearie," came the voice of the operator.
"I'll give you the room clerk, though I must say——Hold on, here he is."
"Hello!" cried Mr. Owen. "Room clerk? Good! I've got two beds and two baths, and there is a naked woman in each."
"What more do you want?" asked the room clerk. "We haven't any double women, if that's what you're after."
"I'm not," snapped Mr. Owen. "But where do you expect me to go?"
"I don't know about you," said the clerk, "but if I was fixed up as you are, I'd either go to bed or take a bath. You can't lose."
"Something has to be done about all these women," fumed Mr. Owen. "And that without further delay."
"I should say so," agreed the clerk. "The night isn't getting any shorter. By rights you're entitled to only two women. How did you manage to smuggle the others in?"
"I didn't smuggle them in," Mr. Owen protested. "They smuggled themselves in."
"Women are great hands at that," philosophically observed the clerk. "You seem to be having all the luck."
"Listen," Mr. Owen pleaded. "You don't seem to understand. There are two beds and two baths. So far I've got a woman in each."
"Let's see," broke in the clerk. "If I remember your room rightly that leaves three chairs and one sofa unoccupied. Do you want a woman in each of those?"
"Are you mad?" thundered Mr. Owen.
"No," replied the room clerk, "but you must be, not to be satisfied with a couple of beds and bathtubs filled with women."
"I said you didn't understand," wailed Mr. Owen. "I'm more than satisfied. Much more than satisfied."
"Ah!" exclaimed the gratified clerk. "I have been stupid, haven't I? You want to compliment the hotel, don't you? Well, I'm sure the management will be delighted to hear you've had a good time. Go right to it. What a stupid ass I've been."
"You still are," groaned Mr. Owen, and hung up the telephone, a beaten man.
Suddenly he was seized by a mad idea. Springing up from the telephone, he fled across the room in the direction of Madame Gloria's door. Up from the beds and out of the baths like four naked bats out of hell the women raced after him. Across Madame Gloria's room he sped and out into the hall, his pursuers close behind. Here his flight was arrested by the sudden descent of his drawers. Yet even as he fell he had time to thank his God he was landing face forward. When he did land, the women behind him passed over his prostrate body and became hopelessly entangled on the other side. Still in the clutch of inspiration, he sprang to his feet and, pulling up his treacherous drawers with one hand, dashed back to the room he had just quitted and locked the door behind him. Hurrying into his own room, he seized the bottle of whisky and took a deep pull. From the hall came the sounds of agitated female voices. Hands were beating on his door. Mr. Owen grinned and drank again. His telephone bell was ringing. Applying his ear to the receiver he listened blandly.
"Say!" came the voice of the clerk. "The floor operator tells me that there are four naked women beating on your door and raising howling hell in the hall to be let in."
"Good!" cried Mr. Owen. "It's music to my ears. I was expecting them."
"But, man alive," went on the clerk, "you've already got four naked women, and with these four it makes eight altogether. How many more do you want? People sleep in this hotel occasionally, you know."
"No," said Mr. Owen. "I didn't know that. Well, I'm going to be one of them."
He hung up the instrument and turned back with a satisfied smile to the room. Four indignantly naked women were watching him with glittering eyes.
"You forgot the other door, didn't you, dearie?" said Madame Gloria in oversweetened tones.
"And that's going to be just too bad for you," added Satin, her small white teeth gleaming.
Mr. Owen made one dive for the bed. The women made four. All landed safely, Mr. Owen on the bottom. At this moment the partners, escorted by a page boy with a passkey, entered the room with the glacial dignity of the elaborately drunk.
"Dear me! " exclaimed Mr. Larkin. "What a bevy! And where can Owen be? Ah! There he is! Underneath the bevy, of all places."
"Is he the one with the drawers?" asked Mr. Dinner.
"Yes," said Mr. Larkin. "The only one with drawers, if my eyes do not deceive me."
"He won't have them on long," Major Barney remarked placidly, "the way they're going for him."
The presence of the gentlemen spread consternation in the ranks of the ladies who, to Mr. Owen's surprise, suddenly developed scruples hitherto unsuspected. In their own strange way these women had their standards. Up to this point each one of them had believed herself to be rightfully entitled to Mr. Owen. In the face of an audience they were willing to abandon their claim. And they abandoned it as energetically as it had previously been pressed. They literally took Mr. Owen up and tossed him at his partners' feet. After that they divided the bedclothing and sat expectantly swathed.
"And now," resumed Mr. Larkin smoothly, this time addressing the highly edified page boy, "if you'll be so good as to hurry away and bring back leagues of sandwiches and oceans of strong drinks, we'll see what can be done to make this evening pleasanter—or is it morning? I forget which. Does it really matter?" As the boy hurried away, he turned to Mr. Owen. "I ask you," he resumed. "Does it? No. All that really matters is that you get some trousers on as speedily as possible. And that only matters to you, although sometimes I feel we are liberal to a fault."
Mr. Owen rose and shook each of his partners by the hand.
"Gentlemen," he said, looking vindictively at the ladies seated like so many Orientals on the beds, "you saved me from a living death."
"I cannot think of a happier one," Mr. Larkin replied bowing to the four swathed figures. "Who are the other two? I don't seem to recall their faces."
"We go with the room," explained one of them in a husky voice.
"And he didn't want us," said the other, "but we sneaked in anyway, just in case he changed his mind."
"Conscientious to the last," observed Mr. Larkin approvingly. "You seemed even willing to change his mind for him."
"Let bygones be bygones," said Mr. Owen with a grin as he collected his scattered garments and made for the bathroom. In a moment he reappeared and picked up the bottle. "You know," he explained, "this bottle and these drawers and myself have been through so much together we can't bear to be separated."
"You almost were," said Satin grimly. "And if you keep flaunting yourself before us I'll snatch you as naked as a babe in arms."
Mr. Owen departed, this time not to return until securely as well as completely clad. His bottle was now empty, but the room was full of drinks. As usual the partners had done things on a tremendous scale. Everywhere Mr. Owen turned, a glass or bottle was ready to his hand. Nor did it take long for them to find their way to his lips. On the two beds the ladies sat in their drapery and munched sandwiches. In their eyes was that knowing expression of women awaiting developments which experience has taught them were quite inevitable even when unsolicited.
"I've literally thrown away my night," declared Madame Gloria, adding an empty glass to two others already beside her. "Simply tossed it away."
"Why, my dear lady," protested Mr. Larkin. "All is far from lost. Instead of getting one man, you've got the four of us. Think of that."
"Yes," replied Madame Gloria. "I am. Three old faces and one new but stupid one."
"And lots of free drinks," put in the practical Mr. Dinner.
“They make up for a little," assented Madame Gloria, "but not for all—not for the new and stupid face. I'd like to slap it."
"Why can't you cultivate an attitude of indifference towards me?" asked Mr. Owen annoyingly. "My face may be new to you, but really it's an old, old story."
"But, my dear man," explained Madame Gloria. "I haven't seen the last chapter yet."
"No, but you have almost everything else," Satin lazily observed. "All of us have. Weren't his little drawers enough?"
"Those drawers were almost too much," Madame Gloria agreed reminiscently. "Especially when they tripped him."
"Can't you veer this subject, Mr. Larkin?" asked Mr. 0wen, feeling that his once secret life had now become a public scandal. "Those drawers of mine are exhausted."
The senior partner daintily shot back an immaculate cuff and examined a magnificent wrist watch.
"It is," he said, "exactly three o'clock in the morning. At this hour people, if they sleep at all, are usually attempting forty winks—that is, if both parties are willing."
"Which is ideal," put in Mr. Dinner.
"It does make for party harmony," agreed Mr. Larkin. "But to continue. The halls of this hotel are infinitely long, and broad almost to a fault. For gentlemen that stagger, as what gentleman doesn't, they are occasionally discouraging. One either falls down or grows sober before hitting them. For a man who veers as much as I do, whether drunk or sober, this becomes quite a trial. It throws the responsibility for my progress on my own shoulders instead of on the walls. I mean, the walls themselves—not their shoulders. Anyway, that's not what I'm talking about."
"No?" inquired Honor Knightly. "Would it upset you greatly to veer round to what you are talking about?"
"Not at all," was the ready response. "Only, my dear lady, don't fly out at me. What I wanted to say was that I would like to have me a little foot racing done. There! I've said it."
"You have," remarked Major Barney, "but not very clearly. How do you mean, “I would like to have me a little foot racing done"? It's not even bad English. It's worse. Something seems to be there, but one can't quite find it. Do you mean that you would like to sit in a chair and watch others run foot races for you, or that you desire to participate yourself in some damn fool sporting event, or just what intelligence are you trying to convey through the medium of human speech?"
"I would like to run a foot race on foot," said Mr. Larkin simply, but in a slightly offended voice. "But I'm getting a little exhausted about it even before it's started."
"Well, that's clear, at least," commented Major Barney. "Does anyone else feel like running a foot race on foot?"
"How?" asked Mr. Owen, who had secretly won tremendous races in the past.
"On foot," replied Major Barney.
"Oh," said Mr. Owen. "If it's on foot, I'll run one."
"On what foot?" asked Mr. Dinner, blinking.
"On one's best foot," supplied Mr. Larkin. "One puts it forward, you know."
"And drags the other behind, I suppose?" Dinner retorted with bitter sarcasm.
"No," answered Mr. Larkin. "One gives the other foot every encouragement. Although, so far as I'm concerned, one can take it or leave it, as one likes."
"I'm worried about my drawers," said Mr. Owen.
"Take 'em off, man! Take 'em off! " the Major ruggedly exclaimed. "Your face is not the only old, old story about you."
"No," decided Mr. Owen. "I think I prefer to keep my drawers on. After all, a foot race is serious business."
"Especially when it's on foot," added Mr. Dinner.
"Sure," put in Honor Knightly. "If he were running this foot race on his hands, his drawers would stay up anyway, wouldn't they?"
"How true," remarked Mr. Larkin. "And how unnecessary."
As a consequence of these elaborate preliminaries the two foot racers, Mr. Larkin and Mr. Owen, accompanied by their supporters, proceeded noisily to the hall, where they took up their positions. They were rather unsteady about this, but meticulous as to details. When they attempted to toe their marks in the conventional posture of the runner, both had to be lifted from their faces upon which they had slowly collapsed. The race itself started somewhat casually, both Mr. Owen and Mr. Larkin having to be pushed into operation. As they trotted down the magnificent hall their friends and admirers followed them at a respectful distance. As a matter of fact, they were forced to gear themselves down in order to keep from outstripping the contestants.
"I didn't know you were a racing enthusiast," observed Mr. Larkin, veering over towards his rival. "To be quite frank I never knew that I was one before. It is jolly if one doesn't go too fast."
"Well, I'm not sure even now," replied Mr. Owen, "whether I'm a racing enthusiast or not. I've often enjoyed myself thinking I was one."
"Are you like that, too?" exclaimed Mr. Larkin, barely getting his best foot forward. "So am I. I dearly love to think of things. Oh, yes, yes. I'm a great thinker. Once I thought I was the Sultan of Turkey and, would you believe it, before I could change my mind, I had dragged seventeen strange women into my house and was eventually discovered chasing a terrified Negro porter with a huge pair of shears. It's amazing, isn't it? I mean when one thinks deeply of anything. I was thinking almost too deeply. You see, I must have wanted a harem down to the last detail."
"The Negro being the last detail," observed Mr. Owen.
"Yes," agreed Mr. Larkin. "It's a good thing for him he could run so fast. He ran even faster than we are now, if anything."
"He had something to run for," commented the other competitor.
"Didn't he, though," agreed Mr. Larkin. "Under similar circumstances I'd have run, too. I'd have fairly torn along—much faster than this."
"Has any special distance been thought of in connection with this race?" Mr. Owen inquired politely.
"None at all, so far as I know," came the cheerful reply, "I guess we'll just keep running round these halls until we get sick of it, or they get sick of us, or we think of something else to do."
"But who wins?" asked Mr. Owen.
"That's for us to decide," Mr. Larkin said with some complacency. 'That's where we have the advantage. We hold the winning trick."
"How do you mean?" Mr. Owen wanted to know.
"I'll think that up, too," he was informed, "and let you know later. At the moment everything is in abeyance. We're coming to a corner."
They achieved the corner with dignity if not with speed, and continued on in amiable conversation. And as they progressed, doors opened up along the hall behind them. People in various stages of dishevelment appeared in these open doors and wanted to know things. Not receiving a satisfactory answer, they joined the ranks of the following party to find out for themselves. Presently a considerable crowd of people, ignorant both as to why they were running and where they were running, were milling quite contentedly through the corridors of the hotel. Clerks and page boys arrived on the scene to inquire into the reasons for this unusual activity. Inasmuch as no one was able to enlighten them, they too joined the ranks and started running with the best of them. Presently this impressive body of guests, clerks and attendants overtook and passed the two innocent causes of its existence. They were too busy conversing to give any coherent answers to the questions put to them. They desired to be let alone, and had entirely forgotten why they were there themselves. Looking after the hundreds of figures disappearing down the hall ahead of them, Mr. Larkin's curiosity was aroused in a refined, unobtrusive way.
"Goodness gracious," he exclaimed. "Look at all those persons running round the halls. Wonder where they can be going at this time of night?"
"I don't know about them," observed Mr. Owen, "but I'm getting pretty tired and thirsty. There should be barrooms along these halls for long-distance runners like us."
"Perhaps if we keep on running, we'll come at last to your room, like Magellan—or was it MacFadden?—I don't know which."
At length, barely able to distinguish the best foot from the worst, they staggered through the door of 707 and fell panting on the beds, where they lay until refreshed by a drink. The others, who had lost interest in the race, sat around with glasses in hand and waited patiently while the athletes got their breath.
"Open a bottle of champagne," gasped Mr. Larkin.
"Are you tired?" Mr. Dinner asked.
"Are we tired?" exclaimed Mr. Larkin. "My God, this hotel is endless. There's absolutely no stopping it. It goes on and on and on just as I do at times. Only I'm never tiresome. We're simply broken reeds, that's all there is to it."
"But who won?" asked Major Barney.
"Won what?" asked Mr. Owen.
"Make yourself clearer," said the senior partner. "There's not a veer left in my mind."
"Why, the race, of course," explained one of the ladies who went with the room. "Who won that?"
"Oh," said Mr. Larkin. "We were running a race, weren't we? That's so, too." He paused as if thinking deeply, then swung his feet off the bed. "From the speed the manager of the hotel was making when we last saw him," he resumed, "I'd say he was making a strong bid for supremacy. We gave our places to him because, after all is said and done, it's his hotel, and if he doesn't deserve to get a little fun out of it, I'd like to know who does."
As nobody else seemed to know, the party turned its attention to more serious matters.
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