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Title:      The Stray Lamb
Author:     Thorne Smith
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Language:   English
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Title:      The Stray Lamb
Author:     Thorne Smith





CHAPTER

I     SPINES IN TRANSIT
II    THE EAR OBTRUDES
III   THE EAR HAS LEGS
IV    THE LITTLE RUSSET MAN APPEARS
V     A HORSE IN BED
VI    EQUINE EXCURSIONS
VII   THE BATTLE OF THE CHURCH
VIII  WHAT HAPPENED TO THE HORSE
IX    THE HEIGHT OF TOLERANCE
X     LAMB TAKES THE AIR
XI    AN AERIAL INTERLUDE
XII   MR. BILLINGS REMOVES HIS CLOTHES
XIII  A LAPFUL OF SANDY
XIV   SAPHO TRIES TO MURDER A FISH
XV    SANDY GETS HER MAN
XVI   LESS THAN THE DUST
XVII  IN SANDRA'S BED
XVIII THE WORLD'S WORST BOOTLEGGER
XIX   ABOVE THE BATTLE
XX    A DECIDEDLY DIFFERENT SOMETHING
XXI   EXIT THE LITTLE RUSSET MAN
XXII  IN THE WAKE




CHAPTER I
SPINES IN TRANSIT


MR. T. LAWRENCE LAMB weaved his long, shad-bellied body down the
aisle and, as one sorely stricken in affliction, crumpled into a
seat. He hoped prayerfully that the other half of it would remain
unoccupied. He hoped even more prayerfully that if it should be
occupied it would not be by anyone he knew even remotely. Every
evening he hoped this and almost every evening his hope was disregarded.

Mr. Lamb automatically elevated his knees. Out came his paper and off went
the train. All set. Another day smeared.

He sighed profoundly. So far so good. No one had yet encroached
upon his Jovian aloofness. Perhaps for a change he would get the best
of the break. Adjusting his features in what he fondly believed to be a
repellent expression he prepared to concentrate his attention on the
financial section of his newspaper. His heart was not in it. Neither
was his mind. Lamb was in a vagrant mood--misanthropic, critical, at
odds with himself.

"Here we sit," he mused--his eyes darkly contemplating his
fellow commuters--"Here we sit, the lot of us, a trainful of spines in
transit...so many sets of vertebr, each curved and twisted according
to the inclination of its individual owner."

His eyes rested unenthusiastically on a man he heartily disliked, Simonds,
a purveyor of choice lots.

"Take Simonds there," he continued to reflect. "That spawn of
hell is just a lot of vertebr all curled up, I myself am scarcely more
than a column of vertebr. And that old lady over there, she's a
repository of vertebr, old tortured vertebr, no doubt extremely
brittle...museum pieces."

He sighed morbidly over the great age and brittleness of the
old lady's vertebr, and rearranged his own, flexing them deftly
between the seat and its back. His knees crept up higher in front of
him. His head sank lower. He was gradually jack-knifing into his
favourite commuting position.

For some inexplicable reason vertebr this evening seemed
unusually important to Lamb. They were almost getting the best of him.
The more he thought of vertebr the lower his spirits ebbed. There were
too many commuters, all trying to
contort themselves into the most comfortable, the most restful
positions--all striving to do well for their backs after the strain of
the day.

Tentatively Lamb peered into his newspaper. He fully intended
to wash his hands of vertebr and to study the details of a new bond
issue.

There were newspapers everywhere--evening newspapers. Alluring
pictures on impartially quartered front pages displayed one pair of
robust legs, one good corpse, a sanguinary railway accident, and a dull
looking pugilist. What more could a reasonable person crave? 
Lamb studied the absorbed readers with detached animosity.
Papers were being held at every conceivable angle, some negligently,
untidily, others grasped tenaciously as if their owners lived in
momentary dread of being deprived of comfort. Some readers scanned
their papers from afar. Others approached them secretively, nose
touching type.

"Newspapers and vertebr," elaborated Lamb, eyeing suspended sheets
bitterly. "That's all we are. That's all we're good for."

In the third seat in front of him sat a dignified old gentleman.
He was having though cerebration assimilating the fact that ants
greatly deplore the existence of essence of peppermint. For sixty-odd
years he had managed to struggle through life without the benefit of
this information. Now it had become urgent business with him. He must
tell his wife about it the first thing. No more red ants for them. Then
he tried to remember if they had ever suffered from red ants.

Farther down the aisle was a man whose expression grew bleaker
and bleaker. He was following a comic strip. His concentration was
almost pathetic. When he arrived at the grand climax he sat as one
stunned, gazing hopelessly ahead of him. One would have been led to
believe that he had suddenly received a piece of extremely depressing
news.

In another seat, crouched like a dog over a bone, an
ingrown-looking individual was enjoying a vicarious thrill from the sex
irregularities of a music teacher and a casual man of God. Satisfyingly
salacious stuff. Shocking. However, this commuter would not discuss the
sordid affair with his wife. Such topics are better left outside the
family circle.

Meanwhile the landscape.

Lamb turned to the window and considered a rapidly receding cow.
Then his glance ran through the train. Nobody else was considering that
cow. Nobody else was considering anything other than newspapers so far
as he could discover. Yet the cow had not been without its points ...a
pleasant, contemplative, square-cut cow. And that brook out there. Lamb
wondered idly where it wandered, through whose backyard, through what
meadows and woodlands. Lamb himself was wandering now far from the
financial section.

No scenery in all God's world, he decided, was quite so
unobserved, left quite so utterly flat and to its own devices as those
sections traversed by these hurtling slave galleys of progress. For the
commuter, familiarity with the landscape completely skipped mere
contempt and passed into the realms of non-existence.

If that proud home-owner labouring out there on his lawn could
only realise how unappreciated his efforts were he would not feel so
infernally smug about things.

Especially this evening, Lamb's thoughts ran on, was the
landscape neglected. Eyes looked upon it, but for the most part
indifferently, unseeingly. Newspapers were to blame. Lamb worried his
own paper. Commuting trains everywhere, he reflected, were more or less
spiritually akin. That was the awfulness of it. His feeling of
inferiority and sameness deepened. His mood grew more restless. It was
gathering in revolt.

What was he himself but a poor doomed commuter, a catcher and
quitter of trains? His destiny stood confronting him, smirking at him.
Years from now he would be extending a withered feeble hand clutching a
commutation ticket to be punched. He wondered if conductors ever died
or grew old. They never seemed to, always stayed about the
same--loquacious mummies.

A good Grade A, case-hardened commuter, decided Lamb, would
experience but scant difficulty in meeting his soul's brother in any
part of the world where commuting trains operated. With this creature
he would be able to discuss his favourite topic in his own pet
vernacular. Neither of them would give a tinker's damn about the
scenery. They would consider it in no terms other than those of
building and real-estate development-- investment opportunity. With an
inner ear, Lamb hearkened to a hypothetical conversation:

"That's a neat bit of wooded highland," observes commuter A covetously.

"Yep," says B. "It's just itching to be opened up."

"Wish I had the ready to go in for a proposition like that," replies his
friend.

"Man alive," says the other, "if I had the backing, that
property wouldn't stay undeveloped long. Give me just six months, and
I'd have a couple of paved streets run through and a row of model
homes--

He pauses and frowns masterfully at the hillside.

"And garages," adds commuter A, not to be outdone. "Bang-up
sewerage and a garbage-disposal plant. That sort of stuff gets the
right class of buyer."

The wooded hillside is doomed. Its trees shiver. Trees have a
way of knowing about such things. Soon wayward lovers will be seeking
elsewhere for stimulating concealment. A neat little garage will have
usurped their bower.

"My God! muttered T. Lawrence Lamb, now thoroughly in revolt
against the ordained measure of his days. "I'm a part of the system.
I'm all tied up."

Then quite suddenly his attention became riveted on an object.

It was an ear.


CHAPTER II
THE EAR OBTRUDES

An unqualified fact. The object at which Mr. Lamb was gazing with such
rapt attention was nothing more nor less than an ear.

A small pink ear. A perky shred of an ear. And this ear in turn
was ornamenting a small sleek head. Exceedingly black hair, closely
trimmed--a severe yet successful bob, becoming only to about one woman
in a thousand.

"That's a mean-looking ear," mused Lamb. "Looks like a wicked
horse's. Snakish sort of a head too, probably filled with all sorts of
schemes and misery.

Yet, even as he gazed, Lamb attempted to reject the existence
of the ear. He was not, he assured himself, actually looking, at it. He
was merely resting his eyes. In a moment or so he would return once
more to his newspaper.

As a matter of fact, his paper was so held as to be ready for
immediate action. For instance, if the head to which the ear was
attached should chance to reverse its position, Lamb could instantly
take to cover. Meanwhile, if the ear happened to cross his field of
vision that regrettable circumstance could hardly be obviated. It was
not of his seeking.
As he had previously done with vertebr, he now proceeded to do with
the ear. He washed his hands of it. He firmly set it aside.

That silly-looking ear was really no concern of his.

Unconsciously Lamb found himself wondering just how it would
feel to bite that ear ever so delicately--tentatively, so to speak. What
would its owner say? What would she do? Bite back most likely.

White teeth, small active teeth, somehow went with that ear, A
brazen character too, daring and unrestrained. A thoroughly
objectionable female type. Even from the little Lamb had seen, he
considered the owner of the ear a demoralising influence.

Anyone observing Lamb would not have suspected him capable of
such an odd line of thought. Lamb himself was far from being aware of
the fact that he was a thoroughly unmoral man, a sort of warmed-over
pagan as judged by all standards of conventional morality. Otherwise
that ear would not have disturbed him so profoundly, would not have
lured him away from consideration of finance and industry.

When the gods were fabricating Mr. T. Lawrence Lamb they were
far from being single-minded about it. There had been a certain
divergence of opinion, a lamentable lack of harmony. Some had
contended, not without reason, that there were already too many
commuters cluttering up the earth, too many hard-headed, conscientious
home owners, too many undeviating husbands and proud fathers.

Humanity was becoming too stable, too standardised. It needed more highly
spiced and less orthodox representatives.

Other gods were firmly convinced that in order to allow
themselves a few gracious liberties and privileges and at the same time
to create a favourable public opinion it would be a far wiser thing to
keep humanity more or less at a dead level, to make appetites and
desires as orderly as possible, and to reduce imagination to a safe and
sane minimum.

It is to be remembered that these dissenting gods were the
greatest hell-raisers on high and that they brought forward their
contentions merely to further their own selfish ends and to assure
themselves the unexamined enjoyment of their rather indelicate
pursuits.

Unfortunately, though outnumbered, these gods represented a
small but active minority, and the result with Lamb was an acrimonious
compromise, an incongruous blending of strongly opposed elements.

Outwardly Lamb looked and acted like a sober, responsible and
respected member of the community--one of its more solid members. Lamb
firmly believed himself to be every bit of that.

But the inner Lamb, the true Lamb, was not quite so good. There
was little conformity in him, scant reverence for the established order
of things. Consequently, Lamb, was the seat of much mental and
spiritual conflict, of many stray, orphaned thoughts.

Within himself he contained an unplumbed reservoir of good
healthy depravity that was constantly threatening to overflow and to
spill all sorts of trouble about his feet.

Lamb's face, like his body, was long. His skin was dark and
expression somewhat saturnine. His eyes looked out on life always a
trifle sardonically. His associates believed him to be a capable,
serious-minded man, whereas in reality he was filled with a sort of
desperately good-natured irony.

For purposes of self-protection he was often brusque and
caustic. It was just as well for everybody concerned that many of the
remarks that sprang uninvited to his lips were quickly stifled.

He had a wife who considered herself both artistic and
intellectual. Lamb heartily detested these qualities; little realising
he possessed them himself to a high degree.

He enjoyed sitting with his knees elevated and his arms waving
vaguely above his head. In this position he gave the impression of a
semi-recumbent cheer leader.

It was his most effective pose. He could explain things better
that way. When customers came to him for financial advice they usually
found him in this position, his desk being used solely for the purpose
of supporting his knees.

As he talked to them, his hands churning about in the air
seemed to be juggling the industries and public utilities of a nation.
Fascinated, his callers saw golden opportunity dancing before their
eyes. Lamb's success as a financier lay in the fact that he was often
eloquently inarticulate--staccato.

When necessary he could be masterfully blasphemous. His selling
talks left much to the imagination. An overhead scrambling of the
bands, a tortured oath or so, and a lowering scowl were sufficient to
crumble the opposition of the most opinionated investor.

In his dress he somehow always managed to be smartly dishevelled, always
slightly sprinkled with cigarette ashes.

His manners were not good. They were natural. At forty, he no
longer cared a rap whether or not he ever sold another bond. Like his
fathers before him he was the Lamb of Lamb & Co. Exactly who or
what the "Co." represented people had given up speculating. Customers
knew that Lamb alone was sufficient. They deferred to his judgement and
absorbed his bonds.

Lamb had never ceased to be both pleased and surprised by his
success. He was conscientious about other people's money. The
well-established reputation of Lamb & Co. had not suffered under
his management. He was proud of it, but just a little fed up. This he
scarcely realised.

Fortunately for the business no one ever sensed the lurking instability
of the man, least of all Lamb himself.

His wife found it convenient to regard him as an unimaginative
plodder--a money-grubber. Lamb no longer bothered his head about her
opinion. In his eyes she had long been a Matrimonial washout.

Occasionally he found enjoyment in annoying her. For years she
had been trying to subjugate him, to mould him to her ways of life.
To-day he was as inexplicable and as recalcitrant as when he had just
married her.

He was not a satisfactory husband. He knew this and was pleased.

He failed utterly to harmonise with Mrs. Lamb's background, yet
there he was and there probably he would be always with his long legs
and mocking face. Mrs. Lamb often wished she had married an unqualified
fool instead of this dark, ambling creature on whom she could make no
impression.

It was essential to Mrs. Lamb's happiness that she should
always make an impression. She feared Lamb's unuttered observations and
never felt quite securely poised in the presence of his enigmatic grin.

Lamb was no household comfort. He cramped his wife's style dreadfully.

His daughter a little more than liked him. Together they
considered life critically, cynically, and just a bit coarsely; With
the aid of Hebe, Lamb at times became a jovial vulgarian: It was a
relief to him, an outlet. With everyone else he automatically acted the
part of the conventional, unemotional, complacent business man he
fondly believed himself to be.

And for that reason the ear offended him. Lamb disliked
philandering, yet for some reason or other, he felt that with very
little persuading he could bring himself to philander with that ear.

For several weeks he had been observing it in casual, detached
way. It was such a ridiculously small ear--the merest pretence of an
ear. Why should a full-grown man like himself trouble about such a
trifle? He was well past the age of foolishness. His own daughter was
nearly as old as the ear. Anyway, the whole idea was out of the
question.

Yet the ear was undeniably a challenge. And that small sleek
head so independently perched on a nice-looking neck, that too, was not
without its appeal.

Strange to say, Mr. Lamb had never looked on the countenance of
the owner of the ear. He had not even tried to push his investigations
that far. He had felt it safer to let bad enough alone. He had ideas
about the face, vague speculations, but he did not dwell on them. Why
should he? Of what interest was it to him? Rubbish!

The train was slowing down for his station. Experienced
commuters were already collecting their inevitable packages from the
racks. Mr. Lamb methodically folded his newspapers and dismissed the
ear from his thoughts--that is, he half rose preparatory to making his
way down the aisle when quite unexpectedly the ear turned, and Mr. Lamb
sat down hurriedly like one suddenly atrophied.

The man was shocked to the core. He felt himself intimately
caressed by a pair of incredibly melting eyes set in a face whose
pallor is usually associated with innate vice. There was a mouth too,
vivid terribly defenceless, and at the same time quite capable.

It was one of the most alarming experiences in Mr. Lamb's life.
Those eyes. The languor in them. What a way for a woman to look at a
man in public! The only word Lamb would think of in connection with
those eyes was "voluptuous". They, were actually voluptuous eyes, yet,
strange to say, they were unconsciously so. The girl did not know what
she was doing. She could not possibly know.

"A creature with eyes like that," thought Lamb, "should be forced to wear
smoked glasses."

She was more dangerous than a floating mine in the path of
shipping. Her very innocence increased her potency. For some
inexplicable reason Lamb smelled the fragrance of branches heavily
laden with blossoms and caught a glimpse of a Chinese print he had once
intended to buy.

The girl had turned her face away. Simonds, the bounder, was
pausing to talk to her. The girl was smiling a slow, provocative smile,
and Simonds, fool that he was, seemed to be ghoulishly pleased.

"She's cooking up something," thought Lamb. "The jezebel--a regular Messalina,
that girl--a she devil."

The train was gradually emptying. Lamb half rose again to make
his way out. Then her eyes met his for a second time, and once more Mr.
Lamb felt himself transfixed.

This was all nonsense. He rallied and calmly returned the
girl's gaze. Then he finished folding his paper, rose snappily and left
the train.

"What the hell!" he kept saying to himself. "What the hell!"


CHAPTER III
THE EAR HAS LEGS

STILL numbed by the high voltage of those passionate eyes--Mr. Lamb
had slightly refined his first expletive--he made his way down
the aisle and, mingled with his kin on the station platform. In
his deep abstraction he failed to respond with his customary briskness
to the salutations of his friends.

"'Lo there, Lamb, how's the boy?" passed unchallenged, as did,
"Evening Larry, how's tricks?" and other such innocuous inquiries.

Following the trail of commuters up the circular stairs, Lamb
paused in the waiting-room by the newspaper counter and looked through
a window at the glittering array of waiting motors. Some of them were
already pulling out bearing their complacently successful owners
homeward through the neat, well-ordered streets of that opulent
suburban town.

Ordinarily this massing of wealth, this tangible evidence of
purchasing power, would have given Mr, Lamb a comfortable sense of
security. It would have made him feel that all was well with the state
of the nation and that under the beneficent guidance of a cautious
administration prosperity was assured.

This evening, however, Lamb looked upon Automobiles without
elation. They were mostly being driven by wives and daughters--smartly
togged women for whom this moment constituted one of the high spots of
the day.

Any woman so unfortunate as to be forced to meet her
bread-winner in an outmoded car was the object of some pity and no
little secret self-congratulation. Her costume was examined a little
more critically, and questions were asked about her husband. Did he
count or was he unimportant? Why did people like that try to hold their
own in such a well-to-do community? There were other commuting towns,
nice little places where they would feel more at home.

The bemused Lamb picked out his own well-groomed automobile and
dwelt on its handsome lines unappreciatively. There was his daughter at
the wheel. A good girl Hebe, but after all was she really good? Was any
woman fundamentally good? Lamb was none too sure.

He saw another person standing by his car. A young man in white
flannels, light sweater, and sport shoes. A well-set-up youngster.
Obviously very much absorbed in Hebe. This youth was leaning over the
side of the automobile, and Mr. Lamb was struck by the lithe,
unconscious grace of the vigorous young boy. A fine-looking pair those
two made. A romantic splash of colour and animation. Romance--that was
for them. They still had time ahead. Heaps of it. His was rapidly
running low.

Without realising how far he was going, Lamb leaned over the
newspaper counter and attempted to strike an attitude similar to that
held by the youth. The effect, was, somewhat surprising. The counter
was low, and Lamb was long. As a result of this combination, Lamb
appeared to be sprawlingly, jauntily, suggestively confidential.

The newspaper man looked at him with startled eyes for a
moment, then, mistaking Mr. Lamb's motives, approached slowly and
leaned tensely forward across the counter.

Unconscious of the man's presence, Mr. Lamb maintained the
immobility of his peculiar position. Believing that he might be still
too far away to receive the delicate communication Mr. Lamb desired to
make, the news-paper man drew even nearer, placed his ear to the
other's lips, and waited expectantly.

For a long moment this odd tableau remained fixed as if in wax, then
the man's curiosity got the better of him.

"Shoot, Mr. Lamb," he murmured. "Something good?"

Slowly Mr. Lamb turned. It took a little time for him to realise
the full import of the situation. All he could see at first was an avid
ear. Then he drew back as if stung and gazed blankly at the vendor of
papers. Why was the creature so breathlessly expectant ? With a shiver
of apprehension he suddenly realised the full significance of the
situation. He looked down at his unnaturally cascading body and
immediately assumed a more normal position.

"What?" he asked, fighting for time. "What's that you said about something
being good?"

"Oh, nothing," replied the man defensively. "From the way you
were leaning over, I thought you wanted to whisper something. You know,
something sort of er--racy."

The newspaper man had basely avoided the use of the word
"dirty." In his substitution of "racy" for it, he felt he had achieved
a conversational triumph. Nevertheless, he considered himself
cheated--let down.

Mr. Lamb regarded him with growing disapproval. He studied the
eager eyes and half-parted lips. Sedulously he avoided the ear. That
face, he feared, that repellent face would henceforth haunt his dreams.

"No," he replied at last. "There seems to have been some
misunderstanding. Those stairs got me. I was merely resting. It must be
the weather. Somehow I feel quite worn out this evening."

He turned wearily, his shoulders suddenly sagged, and arranging
his body in lines of utter exhaustion he dragged his feet away from the
presence of the hateful person behind the counter. Lamb was not cut out
to be an actor. His idea of feigning fatigue was far too elaborate. It
was arresting, but lacked conviction. Mr. Lamb had never progressed in
such a remarkable way in the whole course of his life. He looked as if
he had been mortally wounded and was blindly making his way towards
human aid.

How many others had witnessed his momentary madness, he
wondered. How many eyes had dilated at the sight of his humiliating
posture? Had the ear chanced to see his breakdown? Lamb was filled with
panic.

"Sort of a funny place to pick out for a rest," pondered the
mystified newspaper man, looking after the half-crouching figure of Mr.
Lamb. "Hope he makes his car before he drops in his tracks."

The object of his solicitude was by this time painfully
approaching his automobile. He was relieved to see that the youth he
had so disastrously attempted to imitate had departed, but was not at
all reassured by the puzzled look of inquiry in his daughter's eyes.

"What happens to have broken down in you, major?" the young
lady demanded in a cool, censorious voice. "From that peculiar walk you
appear to be practising, I'd say you needed a hot water bottle and a
dose of castor--"

"Don't!" interrupted Mr. Lamb sharply. "You may be right.
Perhaps I do, but why advertise my shame to the entire community? Would
you like to have people pointing out your father as a man who has or is
about to take a dose of castor-oil? Do you desire to drag your own
flesh and blood through the dust of these streets? And why do you
persist in calling me major?"

"As for the dust of these streets," the girl replied, "you seem
to be doing the dragging of your own free will. How came you to get
your middle section all bunged up like that? And why are you crouching
before me like a jackal about to spring? One would think you'd checked
your stomach somewhere. And that agonised shuffle of yours. Why did you
embark on that?"

Mr. Lamb looked at his daughter with hopeless eyes. With a deep
sigh he opened the door to the front seat and crawled in beside her.

"My stomach got itself that way," he explained briefly. "Don't
know exactly how it did it. Had a frightful day in the city.
Dog-tired."

Why had he ever attempted to deceive that hellish newspaper
vendor with such an obviously artificial walk? It had only succeeded in
making matters worse. Now he must somehow save his face. His daughter
was regarding him with an undermining look of sympathy. Lamb essayed a
groan. Perhaps that. might help a little.

"If you go on like that," observed Hebe, "you'll not only be
dragging yourself through the dust, but you will actually have to get a
prop for your stomach to keep your head from bouncing along on your
feet."

"A horrid picture," thought Lamb. Then to keep his daughter's mind from
dwelling any longer on the subject, he asked abruptly:

"Just who was that emaciated-looking loafer who was practically swooning
all over my car just now?"

"That emaciated-looking loafer," replied Hebe unemotionally,
"might be occupying the position of your son-in-law at any minute now.
You'd better be careful how low you classify him. I have an idea he was
admiring my legs. So many people do."

The physical collapse aroused himself sufficiently to consider his daughter's
legs. He had always been interested in legs.

"Is that so?" he remarked. "Well, if he wasn't near-sighted to the point of
blindness, he must have got an eyeful."

"Father, dear," admonished the girl, "I am still but a child."

"Not with those legs," replied Lamb. "From the way that fellow
was peering into the car you would have thought he was trying to learn
your legs by heart, or to subject them to the third degree."

"And why not?" demanded Hebe ominously. "What's wrong with the legs?"

"Don't like them," said Lamb. "They're too vigorous. Interminable legs.
Do they never come to an end?"

"I wouldn't worry about that," said Hebe. "They're better than Sapho's legs.
Not so frank and confiding."

Hebe was alluding to her mother, who had unfortunately been
christened Mary, and who, because of her penchant for amateur
dramatics, had been renamed Sapho by her daughter. The name had been
gratefully accepted by Mrs. Lamb. She was strongly of the opinion that
she deserved it. Mary Lamb would not have been a livable name.

"You might be right," agreed Mr. Lamb. "Your mother's legs seem
to be pretty well all over the place these days. Yours are a little
less visible at least."

He paused to consider the subject in all its ramifications.
Hebe at times was quite a relief. Only she understood how to treat
unimportant matters with academic thoroughness.

"You know," he went on reminiscently. "In spite of Sapho's
extreme leggishness, I personally don't seem to see them any more--not
as legs, if you get what I mean. But she must have had legs at one
time, I suppose."

Certainly," replied Hebe, "or else I wouldn't be here."

"Logically arrived at," agreed Mr. Lamb, "although your way of
putting it has rather indelicate implications. Your parental respect
also needs a little brushing up."

They were alone now, the other automobiles having departed, and
a new flock was arriving for the next contingent of commuters. Neither
father nor daughter seemed to care whether they ever reached home or
not. The casual ways of the pair were quite a trial to Mrs. Lamb. They
were not popular around the house.

"Speaking of legs," observed Hebe casually, "yon is an upstanding pair of
shafts."

She pointed directly across the street, and Mr. Lamb's eyes
followed the direction of his inelegant daughter's finger. The shafts
referred to belonged to a pair of arms busily intent on carrying
several large bundles from the delicatessen store. Lamb looked on the
legs with instinctive covetousness, then, like a frightened rabbit,
froze defensively to his seat. They were the legs of the ear.

"Uh-hoo!" bawled Hebe's uncultured voice. "Uh-hoo, Sandy! Over here!"

"Don't!" pleaded her father. "Don't make that awful noise. You sound like
some sort of animal."

"Over here!" shouted Hebe with unabated enthusiasm. "We'll take you home."

The legs paused in their progress, altered their course, and came forward
attractively in spite of the bundles.

"That ear would have such legs," thought Lamb.

There was something startlingly personal about them. They were
vicious legs--suggestive. Lamb decided he had never seen such
demoralisingly feminine legs. And Lamb was not elated. He had a
premonition of change, of some complication arising to disturb the
comfortable regularity of his life. He seriously resented this. He was
Lamb of Lamb & Co., a contented, successful man. He was all set--had
his own interests. Why should those legs come walking into his life?
With characteristic thoroughness he washed his hands of the legs.
Nevertheless, washed or unwashed, the legs continued to approach.

"Swarm in," said Hebe urgently to the girl. "Slither over the major and
drop your bundles in the back."

"Why do we all have to huddle up here in the front seat like so
many immigrants?" asked Lamb inhospitably. "Let me get out. I'll sit
behind. Willingly. Gratefully."

In spite of his protest, the legs brushed past Mr. Lamb's knees and arranged
themselves alarmingly beside him.

"This is your father--yes?" asked the girl. "Is be a nice father? He doesn't
sound very. Is he?"

"He's too long," answered Hebe briefly.

"And drawn-out, perhaps?" suggested the other.

"Exactly," agreed Hebe. "That's just it. He's too long and drawn-out. Take
his neck for instance."

"Me take his neck!" cried her friend. "You suggest I should take your
father's neck. How amiable!"

Mr. Lamb noticed that her voice was surprisingly deep and rich
and that she spoke with an insinuatingly rising inflection. An
unwholesomely foreign type, he decided.

"You're mistaken," he hastened to assure the girl. " My
daughter didn't mean for you literally to take my neck. She meant for
you merely to look at it. She seems to think it's too long."

The girl scrutinised Mr. Lamb's neck avidly. Mr. Lamb thanked God that he was
a cleanly man.

"Why, I love that neck!" she suddenly exclaimed, and Lamb was both relieved and
outraged. "I think I could neck with that neck."

"What sort of a friend is this, Hebe?" asked Lamb. "Something imported?"

His mood was waxing retaliatory.

"Her name's Sandra," replied his daughter, "and in a manner of
speaking she is imported. Russian on her mother's side. A nice girl,
but prone to folly."

"Name doesn't sound quite real," observed Lamb. "Does she work in an office?"

"Not Sandra," he was informed. "She's a swell model. Underwear and things."

"You should see me," put in Sandra enthusiastically, "Then I am
at my best. Then you would make me much. But to return to the neck,
tell me, Hebe, your father doesn't neck, perhaps?"

"Not sure," said that young lady impersonally. "I doubt it. His sex life is
practically nil."

"Well, I'll be damned!" ejaculated Lamb, rapidly changing colour.

"Such a big man, too," replied the other girl sympathetically. "The poor
thing must be starved for some loving."

"Hear that, major?" said Hebe. " What you got to say?

"I wash my hands of the both of you," came the emphatic
response. "Never did I hear such stuff. Do all young women go on
nowadays like you two?"

"This is mild," his daughter calmly informed him. "So far, we have
respected your feelings."

"But I won't any longer," cried Sandra tragically. "He is trying
to go back on himself. He is taking a flat leave of me. I must tell
all. For weeks this man has been devouring with hungry eyes the back of
my head. Do not deny it, major. I have watched you in my mirror. To-day
I regarded him with these eyes."

Here she cast these eyes wildly about the automobile, and Mr. Lamb became
slightly dizzy. He was glad he was not driving.

"To-day I observed him eye to eye, so to speak, and he
wilted--wilted before my gaze. Now he would wash his hands of me. Do not
let him do that, Hebe. Do not let him wash. I shall not be washed by
this long Lamb, do you hear? I shall remain unwashed for ever."

On this high note of resolve the emotional young woman paused
for breath and gazed magnificently about her. Mr. Lamb was filled with
amazement and consternation. The complication had arrived. He was
embroiled.

"You may remain unwashed for ever, so far as I am concerned," he remarked
soothingly. "I shall make no attempt to wash you."

"Good!" she exclaimed with a pleased expression. "I knew you would make me
much. And now I depart."

The car drew up before a small, neat-looking home of the modest order, and
the girl quickly slipped out.

"Bring him yourself the first time, Hebe," she said. "After that he will
come alone."

"By stealth and at night," added Hebe.

"I shall do nothing of the sort," Mr. Lamb retorted
emphatically. "Neither alone nor accompanied do I come. The two of you
have gone far in depravity. I wash--"

"For goodness' sake, no more washing," protested Hebe. "We're all washed out
as it is."

The other girl stood gazing soulfully at Lamb for a moment, then
she observed complacently, as if addressing the world at large, "The
Long Lamb will come, never fear. I shall have him."

"Stop talking like an adulteress in a French farce and go away," urged Lamb.
"I want to get home and snatch a drink."

"I shall make you suffer for that," she retorted.

With an emotional swirl of her scanty skirt, Sandra turned and
hurried up the walk to the small house. Mr. Lamb in spite of his
resolution, followed with his eyes the retreating figure, missing no
details of its trim lines.

"Well, major, what do you think of Sandy?" his daughter asked. "Fairly hot
stuff, what?"

"Torrid," Lamb agreed. "Does she always go on like that, or is this some sort
of maidenly pastime you two indulge in?"

Hebe grinned.

"That's for you to find out," she said. "As for me I've
discovered the cause of your weird conduct when you left the train just
now. Sandy had regarded you with these eyes. Brace up, major. You're a
favoured man."

"Drive on," growled Mr. Lamb, "and for God's sake don't be an ass."


CHAPTER IV
THE LITTLE RUSSET MAN APPEARS

STRANGELY enough Hebe heeded her parent's plain-spoken admonition,
which both of them knew without saying amounted to nothing less
than an abject supplication. One glance at her father's face was
sufficient to convince her that his long-repressed emotional
arrangements were in a state of fermenting chaos which threatened
at any moment to produce revolutionary results of an impredicable
nature.

Thereafter she devoted her youth and energy to the business of
driving, taking full advantage the while of that great liberality the
law extends to the young and not unfavoured daughters of prominent
citizens of all well-regulated communities. Lamb was too busily engaged
in washing his hands of practically everything to notice his close and
constant companionship with painful injury and sudden death.

Hebe drove. She drove in the direction of that place in which
Mr. T. Lawrence Lamb sought refuge and repose after the contemplative
quietude of a short yet most unprofitable day.

As if preordained by a class-conscious God with an eye to real
estate values, this fair mansion was situated on the financially
correct side of the tracks.

In most commuting towns of any recognised worth there are
always two sides of which the tracks serve as the line of demarcation.
There is the right side and the wrong side. Translated into terms of
modern American idealism, this means, the rich side and the side that
hopes to be rich.

On either side of the tracks there sometimes extends a
quarter--a blot--that is not rich, will never be rich, and makes no
visible effort to be rich. The blot thrives squalidly amid its fights,
sufferings, and enjoyments. It is fundamentally superior to either side
of the tracks, because it envies neither, regarding all members of the
community as legitimate prey.

Properly speaking, however, those who dwell on one side of the
tracks form a separate and distinct race from those who have their
being on the other side. The rich side is naturally of finer clay,
superior morally, physically, and intellectually. And it is the bounden
duty of those who dwell on the rich side to defend its borders against
the untimely incursions of the financially striving side. Between the
two a silently genteel yet none the less bitter guerrilla warfare is in
constant progress. No pickets are visible, no orders to halt are
audibly voiced, no hostilities are openly exchanged. Nevertheless,
there is a certain sense of vigilance. They shall not pass, is the
order of the day.

By nature Mr. Lamb was too indolent and skeptical to care a rap
about either side. By the accident of birth and inherited wealth he was
well above the battle. One side of the tracks was as good to him as the
other. He lived where he did, not from his own choice, but because the
house had been left to him by those who had gone before after having
lived in it themselves and had their fill of it. The modern plumbing
and other embellishments were of Mrs. Lamb's contrivance. Like other
members of her ilk, she believed, for some obscure reason, that the
rich side of the tracks was also the aristocratic side. She was one of
those aspiring wives who would have ruined her husband's health, hopes,
and happiness in her efforts to drive him across the tracks to the
right side, had Fate seen fit to have placed her on the wrong.

If Mr. Lamb was most entirely perfect in the eyes of his
friends and associates, it was due solely to his profound disregard of
the finer shades of class distinction, his complete indifference as to
what was taking place about him in his sacrosanct community. He should
have been a civil leader, the chairman of committees, the protector of
the established order of things, whereas he devoted most of his time to
making a fine art of comfortable if grotesque sitting. This state of
affairs, to put it mildly, was most distasteful to Mrs. Lamb.
Consequently Lamb enjoyed it the more. Silently, some might say meanly,
he observed her irritation. He studied it analytically. He also enjoyed
her dizzy attempts to make up in herself for the semi-recumbency of her
husband.

Once when Lamb had elevated himself in an endeavour to rid the
community of Home Defence lecturers, reformers, and other practitioners
of a warped and questionable patriotism, his wife had been so outraged
that she had withdrawn to Europe for the duration of three months, much
to the peace and gaiety of the entire household. Lamb and Hebe often
alluded half despondently to the unguarded naturalness of existence
during that pleasant period.

Hebe drove. She drove a winding way along a picturesque,
semi-rustic road leading to that desirable eminence from which the
abode of Lamb looked down on both sides of the tracks through casements
that had framed several generations of watchers, for the ancestral
Lambs had always been estate-minded and land-possessed.

Mrs. Lamb objected to the antiquity of the house, but she had
to admit the distinction of its location and the advantages of its
ample grounds. She had endeavoured to make Lamb build. Lamb had studied
her darkly for the full space of a minute, and there the endeavour had
languished, never to be renewed. He had merely grinned, elevated his
knees a trifle higher, and sighted at her over them. That had been
quite enough. The subject was definitely closed.

As the car rounded a well-planned curve such as is to be found
on the right side of the tracks, Hebe's eyes marked and dwelt on a
figure she considered rather unusual. It was a little russet man, as
she always afterwards remembered him. A small creature, this person
was, apparelled in an ancient habit of russet hue. Even the umbrella
which he carried with some show of elaboration was of the same colour.
From the rear, his short, plump figure gave one the impression of good
living and well-being. It was a jolly sort of figure, the embodiment of
jocund autumn. Hebe thought of chestnuts and burning leaves, of trees
turning and hearths aglow. He was a surprising little man, well poised
and suggesting a certain dignity in spite of his odd appearance.

The little man was more surprising still as the car drew near
him, for he suddenly stopped, turned deliberately in his tracks and
brandished his russet umbrella in a most determined and imperative
manner. There was no mistaking the meaning. He desired the car to stop.
And Hebe obediently stopped. She noticed the little man's face was also
of a russet hue. It was a jolly face, in which sparkled a pair of
merry, unfathomable eyes.

"May I try it?" he asked abruptly.

His voice was as clear as a bell. It carried a quality of humorous
briskness. Hebe was nonplussed. "You mean--" she began.

Exactly, my dear," supplied the little russet man as he fidgeted
ineffectually with the handle of the rear door. "I mean just what I
said: may I try it?"

"Let me help you," offered Mr. Lamb, slightly dazed, as he
turned to open the door from the inside. In doing so his eyes
encountered those of the little man, and an extraordinary sensation
shot through him. He felt as if suddenly he had been discovered, and
yet there was a haunting sense of having just failed to remember
something he had forgotten so long ago that he doubted ever having
known it. The spell was broken at the sound of the little man's clear
voice.

"Your servant, sir," he said, and there seemed to be some hidden significance
to his words. "Now I suppose one mounts?"

"Just so," replied Mr. Lamb. "One mounts."

After busily podging himself into the automobile, the little man
sat down quite unhurriedly and arranged his umbrella in just a certain
way. It was his way of arranging an umbrella.

"Now," he said, looking about him cheerfully, "what happens
next? Make it do things, my dear." Feeling much younger and less
assured, Hebe put the car in motion as the little man observed her, his
eyes alight with great expectations.

"You must understand," he explained in a confidential voice,
leaning over to Mr. Lamb, "in my other--er--I mean, in my younger days I
had no experience at all with this method of locomotion. How could I?"
he demanded severely. "How could I?"

The question required an answer.

"You just couldn't," agreed Mr. Lamb. "Impossible."

"Exactly!" cried the little russet man on a note of triumph.
"The method didn't exist. Is it--er--er--quite as you would have it, my
dear sir?"

"Not so good," offered Lamb, not knowing himself exactly how he would have it.

"No," reflected his small passenger judicially. "It is, as you so laconically
put it, not so good."

"Some nerve," remarked Hebe in a smothered voice.

"The expression, my dear, is modern," said the little man
good-humouredly, "yet its meaning is quite clear. I was merely agreeing
with your father, for I presume he is your father, but perhaps I am in
error on that slight point. It's possible you are his wife, or even
better, his mistress. It is of no importance. As I was just now saying,
I prefer to walk. I seem to taste things through the soles of my feet."

"You must run across some rare dishes," Hebe threw back jauntily.

The little man eyed the girl with approval.

"Your daughter, sir," he said, "for now I am sure she is your
daughter, appears to possess an unusually healthy strain of vulgarity.
I like it. I myself am vulgar beyond compare. In my other--er--I mean to
say, in my younger days even strong men were forced to leave the room.
I once remember Rabelais's fainting--the master vulgarian of them all.
That was an achievement. My highest. Now I am somewhat refined. Not
that I fail to appreciate things."

Mr. Lamb did some vague casting back in his memory, then became
slightly shocked. This strange passenger must indeed be extremely old,
almost too old to exist at all.

"Did I understand you to say Rabelais?" he asked in his most polished manner.

"A thousand pardons," the little russet man hastened to explain.
"Rabelais! Certainly not. It must have been a more recent vulgarian.
Old fellows like myself are prone to confuse both people and periods.
Many years ago, though, I once met you, Mr. Lamb."

"Me!" ejaculated Lamb, now thoroughly aroused. "At what time? In what place
may I ask?"

"Before you were, in a loose manner of speaking, born," came the
quiet reply. "The place does not matter. You would not recall it."

Lamb and his daughter swiftly sought each other's eyes and
found therein no helpful revelation. They seemed to be driving on in a
dim, wandering silence, almost somnolent.

"From the outset you were destined to conflict," drifted a
small, clear, yet distant voice from the rear seat. "It can be
rectified. It should be. If I can be any service--"

Silence. Hebe was driving as those who drive in a
dream--automatically, instinctively. Her father seemed to have fallen
into some deep quagmire of meditation from which he would probably
never be able to extricate himself. Silence still. Higher mounted the
road. Had they been driving thus through eternity? Where was the
station? Where was the house? And what, exactly, did they matter?
Absently Hebe began to sing softly a melody from Tosca. Her low voice
was surprisingly sweet, yet for some inexplicable reason an echo voice
seemed to be following her to-day, a stronger voice filled with passion
and bitterness, a knowledge and love of life. Lamb kept passing from
one brown study to another, each growing browner until the last one
threatened to become black. Yet even in his aloofness he listened to
the singing and wondered. Something within him responded to it. As Hebe
quite naturally slowed down and stopped at the gates to the house
before taking the car to another entrance, a clear note rang out and
lingered for a moment in the car around them--only them. They started
and gazed at each other with bewildered eyes.

"Give over whooping," said Lamb. "What will our passenger think, not to
mention the entire neighbourhood?"

Hebe glanced back at the rear seat.

"He doesn't seem to be there," she announced unsurely.

"Where the devil did we put the beggar off?" demanded her father.

"Don't know. He's off. That's just all there is to it," replied
Hebe. "Perhaps the lunatic slipped out when we slowed down somewhere. I
think he is an escaped one--honestly."

"Without the slightest possibility of a doubt," agreed Mr. Lamb. "But do
you remember, the devil knew my name?"

"Yes--yes--so he did," said Hebe. "I remember now. Rum, ain't it?"

"No end," replied Lamb, with a grin. "This is our show, Hebe, understand ? "

"It is. It is," said the girl.

And just as he was leaving the car he asked her as diffidently
as he could: "Listen, Hebe, does your friend--what's her name--Sand --"

"Sandra Rush," supplied Hebe helpfully.

"Name doesn't matter, anyway," went on her father hurriedly. "Does she always
act like that?"

"That's for you to find out," said Hebe.

"Certainly not. No interest," declared Mr. Lamb. "And is it true that she
parades in underwear?"

"That's a fact," the girl replied. "An absolute fact. I'll take you to see
her sometime."

"God forbid," muttered Lamb, turning up the extensive driveway. "I wash my
hands of it all."


CHAPTER V
A HORSE IN BED

MR. LAMB returned home to find his wife in another man's arms.
The scene would have annoyed, if not irritated, the majority
of God-fearing husbands. Not so Mr. Lamb. It left him cold. To
heighten the colour of the situation, Mrs. Lamb was clad in what is
generally considered an intimate costume--arrangements usually
associated with the bed, yet not necessarily with sleep. The costume in
which the man rejoiced seemed a bit vague to Lamb. All he could think
of was Mardi Gras, class reunion, and revelry in general. He was not
particularly interested.

The couple lay  la Cupid and Psyche upon the floor. At Lamb's
entrance Cupid released Psyche with such alacrity that there was the
unromantic sound of a thud, Psyche being in the neighbourhood of ten
stone.

"Ah!" cried Mr. Leonard Gray, with a wild wave of his hand and
a smile of an uncertain nature. "Crœsus home from his mints. How stands
the market to-day?"

Mr. Lamb saw no occasion to reply to this piece of flamboyancy.

"Well, old money-grubber," said Mrs. Lamb, heaving into a more
graceful position, "I suppose your hands reek with greenbacks. You're
late to-night."

Nor to this remark did Mr. Lamb consider it essential to reply. He merely
contemplated the pair at leisure.

"There are lounges," he said at last. "It's merely a suggestion, of course."

"Oh no, the floor's the place," protested Mr. Gray.

'Not the way I was taught," said Mr. Lamb.

"Tilly, where'd you get those funny breeches?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Lawrence," Mrs. Lamb replied, with an attempt at
dignity. "They're not breeches. They're--"

"Go on, tell me they're kilts," interrupted her husband. "I'm ignorant.
I revel in it."

"You know perfectly well they're your own best silk pyjamas," retorted his
wife. "I put them on to get a certain effect."

"You'll get a tremendous effect unless you've put them on
backwards," Mr. Lamb observed. "I've always had to be careful with
those pyjamas myself."

"Sapho," put in Mr. Gray hastily, "I don't think I can go on with it now.
I can't recapture the mood."

"Try that strangle hold again, young man," suggested Mr. Lamb. "It might
do you a world of good."

"Every man must play his part, Mr. Lamb," replied Leonard Gray protestingly.

"But you appear to be playing my part," said Lamb. "Playing it better than
I could--far better."

Mr. Gray was the local amateur hero, the focal point of the Woodbine
Players. He had once tried to sell bonds in Mr. Lamb's office. It
had been a poor try. Even his manly good looks had failed to disturb
the stenographers. So, accordingly, he had withdrawn, having failed in
all departments. The flappers and married women who had nothing better
to do welcomed him back to the fold of the idle, and found him quite a
help. Of late he was much to be seen at the Lamb mnage where Sapho and
he developed their art.

"Why persist in misunderstanding?" complained Mrs. Lamb. "Leonard and I
are rehearsing for Sunday night."

"Then I suppose I should stay away or visit friends?" her husband suggested.

"Don't be vulgar," Mrs. Lamb replied. "You know very well about the
Vacation Fund affair."

"When I was a boy," said Mr. Lamb, "such scenes used to be
barred in public, especially on Sunday. Why do they close the movies?"

At this point Hebe blew into the room and eyed the weirdly clad couple.

"At it again, I see," she announced. " When will you two ever get tired?"

Mrs. Lamb sighed wearily and considering rising, then thought better of it.

"I'm sure I'll be glad when it's all over," she said. " I'm tired out, and
the part bores me to tears."

"I wish I could take it for you." Hebe's voice was deep with unfelt sympathy.

"Child," said her mother, " you'd never understand. It takes--oh, I don't
know what it takes."

"It takes a hell of a lot of nerve, I'd say," Mr. Lamb remarked. " Come on,
Hebe, I want to desiphon a couple of drinks."

When they had left the room Mrs. Lamb looked questioningly at her partner.

"You shouldn't have dropped me like that," she complained. "I felt so off
poise."

"Only thing to do under the circumstances," replied Mr. Gray.

"Perhaps it was," she answered as he helped her to her feet.
Then in a lower voice: "I'm afraid we were rehearsing too well, Len.
You'll have to be a better boy."

"More careful," he said, equally low.

She nodded.

In the dining-room Lamb was actively caging drinks, being
carefully provided for by Thomas and Hebe. Thomas knew Lamb better than
Lamb knew himself. He had been in the family longer, and was so old
that he had grown used to it and was now apparently indifferent to the
passage of time. Thomas seemed to feel that he had got so old he could
hardly get any older. He had no more room for years. So he cheerfully
kept on living and regarding Lamb and Hebe as his last
responsibilities. He was far too old for Mrs. Lamb. She was eager to
pension him off. Thomas knew this and failed to show the proper amount
of gratitude.

Presently Brother Dug came in--Douglas Blumby, Lamb's
brother-in-law and pet aversion. Dug always sang the "dead drunk" part
in "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," and had never failed to find it
amusing. He was about Lamb's own age, forty, and should have been
chloroformed some months before his first candle. During the War he had
been a camp song-leader and general rouser-up, and ever since that time
his one idea in life had been to make people sing. On gala occasions he
donned his non-combatant song-leader's uniform and recalled camp life
in a loud voice. He did things about Boy Scouts, and they failed to see
his point.

Now he entered the room with a "Whoopee, good people! Guzzle's the word.
How's tricks, Larry?"

Larry choked so severely over his drink that both Thomas and
Hebe sped to his assistance, the one taking the glass from his shaking
hand, the other thumping him violently upon the back. When the
afflicted man had somewhat recovered, he turned a pair of watery
malevolent eyes on his brother-in-law.

"I'm not proud of Lawrence," he said in a hoarse voice, "but by
God if I'll stand for Larry! Further-more, I don't know any tricks."

Hebe turned to brother Dug reproachfully.

"You've been cautioned enough not to call him Larry," she told him.

Brother Dug was not at all cast down.

"All right, Larry," he replied, with a humorous smirk as he patted
Mr. Lamb's already flayed back. " I'll not call you Larry."

Thomas and Hebe seized Mr. Lamb's arms and clung to them. For a
moment he stood there rigid and straining like a statue of Prometheus
chained, then he allowed himself to be placed in a chair and supplied
with a fresh high-ball.

Meanwhile Douglas Blumby had drifted away on some merry quest.
His booming voice could be heard in the hallway discussing with Gray
and Sapho the part that he would play in the Vacation Fund affair.

"Why do you let him live here, father?" asked Hebe.

"God knows, young one," he replied. "Perhaps it's fear of your
mother or my final loyalty to her. Another thing, I have a certain duty
to society. Bad as I am I could never inflict that ninny on the world.
We must keep our troubles in the family."

It was hardly a propitious moment for the entrance of Mr.
Melville Long, yet in that young gentleman came without a care in the
world, assured of a warm, if not an enthusiastic, reception. Mr. Lamb,
gazing at him with lowering brows, recognised the youth he had so
disastrously attempted to imitate.

"This is Mel Long," said Hebe. "He wolfs with us to-night, major."

"I know your father," said Lamb, extending a limp hand. "He works."

"A father's privilege," replied Mr. Long blithely. "I often
thank God he does. If he didn't I don't know how we'd ever get along."

"You rejoice in your non-productiveness, young man," observed Lamb.

"I'm not so unproductive," the youth replied. "This morning I
helped a famous dipsomaniac to regain a part of his health by playing
him eighteen holes of golf. This afternoon I made a sketch of mother
that made the old dear feel fifteen years younger. I'll get a new car
for that. And to-night--well, here I am."

"And I suppose you're going to stay," said Mr. Lamb rather cheerlessly.

"Until the crack o' dawn," Long replied, with a happy smile. "Golfing
makes one hungry."

Mr. Lamb rose wearily from his chair, placed his half-empty glass on
the buffet and walked to the door.

"Well," he said, " if you've settled that, I suppose nothing I
can say would induce you to alter your plans. At your age I didn't
drink--much." He turned to his daughter and continued: " Hebe, you do
the strangest things. Don't drop the decanter when pouring. And don't
wear it out."

With that he left the room. After dinner he retired to his
study, where he sat doing nothing, absolutely nothing. Once he walked
out on his little private veranda and considered the world at large,
after which he returned to his chair, where he continued to do nothing.

The next day he broke an inflexible rule and journeyed to the
city. It was Saturday. There was no sense to it, yet he went just the
same.

As he made for a seat in the train, a slim figure almost tripped him up
in its eagerness to crowd past him.

We shall sit together," breathed the figure. "You and I on a single
seat--alone!"

"With the exception of five or six hundred human souls," observed Mr. Lamb,
"we are quite alone."

"This is merely the beginning," replied Sandra.

"It is a short trip and I usually read right up to the end of it. That has
been my rule for years," said Lamb.

"But now that you've come to know me so well," the young lady continued,
"you will have to make a new set of rules."

Mr. Lamb regarded her with a pained expression.

"You get the queerest ideas in your head," he replied. "I hardly
know you at all. Why don't you go up there and sit with Simonds? He has
no one to talk with, and I doubt if he knows how to read."

"Mr. Simonds!" exclaimed Sandra. "He is a lovely man. He lends me his horse.
I ride him tomorrow."

"Why don't you go and tell him about it?" said Lamb curtly. "If
I couldn't be a better horse than that clown of his I'd give up trying.
At that he's preferable to his master."

"You like him, I see," said Sandra.

"We all do," replied Lamb shortly ; then with a quick change of tone: "Tell me,
do you really parade in underwear?"

"You mean, march down Fifth Avenue behind a band and Mr. Whalen?" she asked.
"Never! I'm too exclusive."

"I didn't mean quite so openly as that," Mr. Lamb explained. "You know what
I mean. Don't quibble."

"I have never quibbled," she said, with conviction, "and I don't
think it nice of you to suggest such a thing. But I do parade in
underwear, to say the least."

"I wouldn't put it that way," advised Mr. Lamb, in a fatherly voice. "It
doesn't sound nice."

"Oh, I am still unseduced," she replied. "I'm tired of trying to be."

Mr. Lamb looked about him quickly, consternation in his. eyes.

"Lay off that," he said in a low, intense voice. "Don't shout
the word above the roar and clatter of the train. Confine your
unsolicited confessions to this end of the car."

"You misunderstand," she continued earnestly. " I don't mean
that I desire to be seduced. What I tried to convey to you is, I'm
tired of having people try to seduce me. You're an exception."

"Let's drop seduction for the moment," pleaded Mr. Lamb. "Do you like
going to plays?"

"Only for the moment will I drop it," said Sandra. " I like going to
plays. Take me."

"I will not," said Lamb.

"Dog," said Sandra, and turned to the window.

The conversation languished here. Mr. Lamb opened his paper and
endeavoured to read. His eyes kept straying furtively to the girl's
averted face. Had she caught his glance he would have felt like a
thief. The reason was hard to define. Gradually it dawned on him that
the girl was looking at the scenery. Actually looking at it. Seeing it.
To such an extent, in fact, that he was entirely forgotten. She had
dismissed him from her thoughts, if he ever had been in her thoughts.
She was out there somewhere, out there in the woods and fields. She was
no longer connected with underwear, that is, Lamb hastily amended, she
was no longer parading in underwear with commercial intent. Lamb also
amended that thought. He did not know quite how to put it, so he gave
it up. Anyway, she was out there somewhere, and he was left quite
behind. He felt injured yet interested.

Suddenly she squeezed his arm.

"Look!" she said. "See the two ponds--the upper one and the lower?"

The ponds flashed past, two brief little bits of metal. She looked at
him with cloudy eyes.

"Well, the lower pond is all alone now," she continued. "There
used to be swans on it. Such lovely, button-hook-looking swans. Now
they're all gone. They're on the upper pond, those swans, and the
children play there now. Do you think that the lower pond feels
lonely?"

Mr. Lamb considered it a very difficult question. His common
sense assured him that the lower pond did not mind in the least, yet
somehow, within himself, he felt as did his companion, that the lower
pond might feel a little lonely.

"Yes," he said at last, regarding her quite seriously. "I think
the chances are that the lower pond feels just a bit out of things.
Perhaps it is lying there wondering when the swans will return again...and
the children."

"I think you're awfully damn nice," she said irrelevantly, and Lamb promptly
returned to his paper.

Just before the train pulled in at the station, Lamb turned to
her and asked: "Why do you sometimes speak in such a strange way...
sort of inverted English?"

"You don't like it?" she asked, with a delightfully rising inflection.

"Leave me out of it," he replied. "Why do you do it?"

Then she laughed. She laughed softly, almost inwardly, without regard for
either Lamb or his feelings.

"You're so dumb," she said finally when she had pulled herself
together. "But just because you've given me such a good time, I'll let
you into a secret. Where I work, where I wander around in underwear,
the directing gods urge us to talk like that. They think it sounds
distinguished, gives the scanty things we wear the stamp of
authenticity. Some of the models are much worse than I am. Sometimes I
fall into it from sheer habit, at others for the sake of practice. I
love to practice on you, you're so--so--gullible, if you get what I mean.
Now will you make me much?"

Lamb gave general directions as to just where she could go, and
thus they parted, the one to the opulent salons of Fifth Avenue, the
other to the thronging defiles of the financial district.

That night Lamb momentarily left his study and stood for a
while on his private veranda. In a perverse fashion he was a little
nosey about what was going to happen on the following evening and the
preparations now under way. Merely because he was so completely out of
it. Lamb was that way.

Mrs. Lamb--Sapho--with several turbans around her head, and what
he decided must be a romper suit embellished with a scarf round the
waist, was temperamentally directing several members of the Woodbine
Players in the erecting of flood-lights and the construction of a
stage. At times she would pause as if in a trance, one hand pressed to
her cheek. And Lamb hated that. He had to look somewhere else whenever
she did it. Sapho was also driving Thomas into a long awaiting grave by
sending him for something, then not wanting it when the old man had
pantingly arrived. Lamb called Thomas to him, and ordered him to bed.

"On your way through the dining-room don't forget to tilt the decanter,"
he told him.

"I wasn't going to, sir," Thomas assured him, and shambled off with a
parting, "I hope we all sleep, sir, in spite of it."

Lamb hoped so. He intended to.

He returned to his study, and the charming fabrications of Kai
Lung and was getting along quite nicely when he became aware that
someone was speaking to him. What he heard was:

"As I was saying, it should be rectified."

Mr. Lamb looked up and saw sitting opposite him, as if he had
always been accustomed to occupying that particular chair, the little
russet man.

"Can you do anything about it?" asked Mr. Lamb.

"I did not say that I could, sir," the little man replied.

"Then why let's talk about it?" continued Lamb. "From the first,
you say, I was destined to conflict. By that, I assume you meant
spiritual conflict. Well, recently I've just realised it. Before that I
always imagined I was a singularly contented and fortunate man. I'm
not. I don't like things."

"What would you prefer to be?" asked the plump caller,
carefully placing his umbrella on the floor beside his chair. "What
would you like to do?"

Lamb rose in exasperation. He moved restlessly about the study,
poured out a brace of drinks, produced a box of cigars, and finally
reseated himself.

"I don't know," he said rather helplessly. "Haven't the vaguest
idea when you put it to me straight. One thing I do know, I'm tired of
being a human being. I think I'd like to be things if I could--animals,
birds, beasts, fish, any old sort of a thing, just to get another point
of view, to keep from thinking and acting always as a man, always as a
civilised being, an economic unit with a barrel full of obligations
constantly threatening to run up against something and smash."

The little russet man considered Lamb pensively for a short
time over the ash rim of his cigar. Lamb steadily meeting his gaze read
a world of understanding in the little fellow's eyes. To Lamb at that
moment he did not seem little. He seemed large enough almost to be
terrible. Yet the man was not quite terrible. It was his penetration
that gave one a feeling of awe--of nakedness.

"That is all I wanted to know," said the little russet man emphatically,
and put down his glass.

Lamb turned to reach for an extra ash-tray. When he turned back
with the tray, offering it to his guest, all that remained of him was a
lazily floating cloud of cigar smoke. The cigar itself was neatly
balanced on the arm of the chair. Only the glass, cigar, and weaving
smoke gave evidence that he had ever been there at all.

For several seconds Lamb remained in a condition of suspended
animation, the ash-tray still extended. Then he deliberately returned
the tray to its place, finished his drink, put his book on the desk,
its pages spread at the place where he had been reading, got up from
his chair and thoughtfully left the room.

It was Hebe's custom to call her father in the morning. Even in
the summer-time when most young ladies lay late abed, especially on
Sundays, Hebe was always hellishly up and prowling.

Mr. and Mrs. Lamb occupied adjoining rooms, though the
advantage therein had for some time ceased to exist. It was through her
mother's room that Hebe gained access to her father's.

This morning, as usual, she appeared in a flaming dressing-gown
and softly opened her father's door. Sapho was still asleep, her
temperament entirely abandoned. The girl looked into her father's room
gloatingly. She was going to disturb someone. Then gradually her
expression changed. She cocked her head on one side like a puzzled dog
and continued to look, her eyes growing rounder and rounder. At last
she turned quietly to her mother's bed.

"Sapho!" she whispered. "Sapho! Wake up. There appears to be a horse
in father's bed."


CHAPTER VI
EQUINE EXCURSIONS

THERE was an element of urgency sharpening the edges of Hebe's
whisper that penetrated Sapho's vast unresponsiveness to
mundane considerations. This woman of many parts and poses sat up in
bed and looked upon her daughter as a glacier would regard a rose.

"Your humour, Hebe, is extremely _mal  propos,"_ she brought forth.

"Sapho," replied Hebe, "I'm not trying to be funny. Things are
funny enough. There's a horse or something very much like a horse in
the major's bed."

Sapho, still light-headed from a heavy sleep, strove to adjust
her brain to the reception of this extra-ordinary announcement. No
good. The brain refused to accept it. "What do you mean, there's a
horse in your father's bed?" she achieved after an effort.

"Exactly that," answered her daughter calmly. "Either father
has turned into a horse or a horse has turned into father. It comes to
the same thing. There's one other possibility. Some horse might have
run father out of bed and taken his place or else gone to sleep on top
of him."

"As if we didn't have enough on our hands with the Vacation
Fund affair to-night," Mrs. Lamb complained as she sought for her robe
and slippers. "If it isn't a horse, Hebe, I'll be very much vexed."

"And if it is?" Hebe inquired.

"God knows," sighed Mrs. Lamb, tiptoeing across the room.

Together they looked upon Mr. Lamb's bed and beheld a horse. As
much of the covers as possible were over this horse, its head was upon
the pillows, yet much remained exposed and dangling. Hoofs and legs
were eloquently visible. It was obvious that only the most determined
of horses would have been willing to sleep in such a cramped position
merely for the sake of a bed.

"My God," breathed Mrs. Lamb. "What will the servants say?"

Under the scrutiny of the two women the horse stirred uneasily
and opened one eye. It was enough. Mrs. Lamb indulged in a gasp, Hebe
was merely interested. Not satisfied with this demonstration, the horse
raised his head from the pillows and looked inquiringly at Hebe and
Mrs. Lamb. Then his lips curled back in a sardonic grin displaying a
powerful set of vicious-looking teeth. He rolled his eyes until only
the whites remained, and thrust one curved fore-leg at Mrs. Lamb, a
gesture eloquently suggestive of his intention to inflict some painful
injury upon her body and person. Mrs. Lamb hastily withdrew to her bed,
where she took refuge beneath the covers.

"You do something about it, Hebe," came her muffled voice. "Get
the creature out of the house without the servants knowing. It would
never do to have them think your mother had a horse in the next room.
You know what servants are."

The horse was listening intently, ears pitched forward, and at
this last remark he winked slowly and deliberately at Hebe. The girl
was amazed. It was her father all over. At that moment she accepted the
fact that something strange had occurred.

Then after a few minutes of thoughtful consideration, looking
this way and that as if to determine the best way of procedure, Mr.
Lamb cautiously got himself out of bed, but not without considerable
clattering and convolutions. Hebe watched him with amused interest. She
knew it was her father.

"Hurry, Hebe," came her mother's voice. "We can't afford to miss church
to-day--not with that affair on to-night."

Mr. Lamb thought of his best pyjamas, and throwing back his head
gave vent to a wild neigh. He was feeling rather wild, and at the same
time a trifle timid. He had often played horses as a child, but never
actually been one. Now he tried to recall just how he had gone about it
in those early days. He wondered how he looked, what sort of horse he
was, and, remembering his full-length mirror, he stepped delicately
across the room and, sitting down in a strangely unhorse-like attitude,
lowered his neck and gazed at his reflection. The effect was not
pleasing. He saw a most despondent-looking creature regarding him from
the glass. Hebe could not restrain a laugh, and Mr. Lamb turned his
head and looked at her reproachfully, then continued his scrutiny.

"I'm not much of a horse in this position," he decided. "There must be
some other way of being a horse. Perhaps--"

He rose from his strange position and backed away from the
mirror, but was still unable to get the desired view. Bending an
eloquent glance upon his daughter, he pointed with his hoof to the
mirror. Obediently the girl went over to the mirror, and after much
shaking and nodding of her father's head, she adjusted it to his
satisfaction.

"That's something like," thought Lamb, surveying his reflection with
no little satisfaction.

He was a fine body of a horse--a sleek, strapping stallion. Black
as night with a star on his forehead. He turned slowly, taking himself
in from all angles.

"Rather indecent, though," he thought. "Wish I had a blanket, a
long one. Oh, Hell! I'm a horse, now. Horses don't mind. Still it
doesn't seem quite --well, I just never did it before, that's all." He
paused to reconsider his reflection, then continued his soliloquy.
"Anyway, if that girl can go about in step-ins and such, I can go about
in nothing at all."

He looked at his daughter proudly, and affectionately nuzzled
her warm neck. She put up her arms and kissed him, then drew back and
looked at him with a half-smile. Lamb solemnly nodded his head, and
Hebe understood. Then a pleasant idea occurred to him. He squeezed
through the door into his wife's room and quietly approached the bed.
Mrs. Lamb was still completely smothered by the covers. Slipping his
nose through an aperture, he suddenly emitted a piercing scream
sounding like a lost soul in hell. It was as if he had blown the good
lady out of the bed. With amazing swiftness covers and all disappeared.
Mrs. Lamb found herself on the floor on the other side of the bed, and
she felt herself lucky to be there.

"Hebe, dear, for God's sake, what was that?" she wailed.

"The horse," answered Hebe shortly.

"Oh, what a horse! " quavered Mrs. Lamb. She was almost crying.
"Can't you get him to go away? There's some Quaker Oats in the kitchen.
Perhaps you can lure him out."

Thoroughly satisfied with the results of his first endeavour,
Lamb's thoughts automatically turned to his brother-in-law. His spirit
of enterprise was fired. He would stir farther afield. Still walking
with high-bred softness, he made his way to the quarters of Douglas
Blumby. Hebe expectantly opened the door for him, and Lamb, with a
courteous inclination of the head, passed through.

Brother Dug was at his shower. He was attacking it as only
Brother Dug could. He was literally singing it into silence. Lamb
stopped and considered, then gently parted the curtains and thrust in
his head. Brother Dug, feeling a draught, reached blindly behind him to
reclose the parted curtains. His hands encountered the wet nose of a
horse. For a moment he fingered the nose thoughtfully. It was not a
part of himself, he was sure of that. Then Lamb breathed heavily on his
back, and Brother Dug gave up feeling and singing at the same moment.
He turned uncertainly, only to find a horse confronting him with every
evil intent in its eyes.

Mr. Blumby's power lay in his throat, and this organ he now
hastened to use with unprecedented vigour. It was a triumph of
vocalisation. He put his whole heart and soul into it, yet the horse
remained. Realising he could not shout the horse out of existence,
Blumby crouched against the wall and held up two shaking hands as if to
blot out the horrifying sight. For a moment he thought himself back in
bed in the grip of some vividly terrifying nightmare. The horse still
remained, water running grotesquely down either side of his nose. Mr.
Lamb was killing two birds with one stone--refreshing himself and taking
vengeance on his brother-in-law with whom he had never thought he would
share a shower. He recalled the weeks, months, years of nausea this
creature had caused him by his mere existence, and his anger rose. With
one alarming fore-leg he reached out and pressed down on the hot-water
lever. Cries of increased anguish from the occupant of the shower.
Steam arose. Douglas attempted to escape, but Mr. Lamb implacably
pushed him back. By this time Hebe had retired, having no desire to
take part in a murder, no matter how justifiable.

Tiring at last of this sport, Mr. Lamb turned from the shower
and devoted his talents to the room. This he proceeded to wreck, and,
remarking Hebe's absence, gave other effective demonstrations of his
scorn.

"Perhaps I shouldn't have done that," he said to himself as he
left the room, " but after all I'm a horse; I'm not supposed to know
any better."

Hebe met him at the door and suggested a breath of fresh air.
Lamb gravely agreed. He was rather nervous and faltering in navigating
the stairs, but with Hebe's moral encouragement he finally found
himself in the lower hall. The girl opened the front doors and gave him
an affectionate pat on the rump.

"That's rather a familiar thing to do even to one's father," Lamb decided.

He turned and subjected his daughter to a reproachful look, then
with great dignity passed through the doors and descended the front
steps. The Sunday papers had already been delivered. A headline caught
his attention. He paused and endeavoured to read, but found difficulty
in focussing his eyes. Finally he hit upon the plan of using only one
eye. This caused him to cock his head in rather an odd fashion for a
horse. However, it served Lamb's purpose, and he became thoroughly
interested. Having essentially a legal turn of mind, he had been
following this murder trial in detail, and this report struck him as
being unusually full and intelligent. With a deft hoof he flipped the
paper over and continued reading, becoming more absorbed as he
progressed.

Suddenly the maid, Helen, came out on the front veranda,
hurried down the steps and snatched the paper from under his attentive
nose. Lamb started after her up the steps, and the maid with a
frightened cry darted into the house. Later she assured her mistress
that she had been pursued across the lawn by a wild horse with blazing
eyes. Mrs. Lamb was not hard to convince. That horse was capable of
anything she thought.

Deprived of his newspaper, Lamb took stock of the world and his
altered relations to it. It was a fair world and a brave day. Lamb felt
better than he had in years. Nevertheless, he would very much like to
finish that newspaper story. Perhaps the Walkers had not risen yet.
Maybe their paper would still be out. With this hope at heart, he
cantered down the drive and long High Hill Road until he had reached
the Walkers' place. Here he turned in and bore down on the front porch
as unobtrusively as he could, taking into consideration the fact that
he was a stallion of striking appearance obviously on the loose.

Good. The paper was there. Lamb quickly found the exact place
in the evidence he had been reading when interrupted and went on with
the story. When it came to its continuation on page eighteen Lamb was
nearly stumped, but by the happy expedient of applying a long red
tongue to the paper, he was able to turn it to the desired page. Just
as he had achieved this triumph some inner sense caused him to look up.
Walker, clad in a bathrobe, was following his movements with every sign
of amazement.

"Well, I'll be damned," said Walker softly. Then he called out:
"Come here May, if you want to see something funny--a horse reading the
Sunday paper."

"Nonsense," said his wife, coming on to the porch and scanning
the moist paper. "The poor fool's been trying to eat the paper, that's
all. Such a beautiful horse, too. Wonder whose he is?"

"She called me a poor fool," said Lamb to himself, "and she's
the biggest dunce in town. However, she has sense enough to see that I
am beautiful. I am. Very."

He looked at her with arched brows, and Mrs. Walker was visibly impressed.

"He's an odd horse," she admitted. "Perhaps he was, in some strange way,
interested in that paper."

Lamb made an approving noise.

Walker, having observed the horse's efforts, studied the page thoughtfully.
There was only one continuation on it.

"I'll try him," he said, and he began reading the evidence aloud.

Lamb, forgetting he was a horse, promptly sat down and listened.
From time to time, as a telling point was made, he nodded his head, and
every time he did this Mr. Walker became so moved that he could hardly
continue reading. Mrs. Walker drew up a wicker chair and sat down. She,
too, became interested in the horse and the evidence.

It was a strange Sunday morning scene: Mr. Walker comfortably
seated on the top step reading diligently, and a horse sitting in a
weird position listening intently with ears cocked forward. Later when
the Walkers attempted to tell the story at the Golf Club, they were
jeered into rebellious silence.

Upon the completion of the story, Lamb arose and bowed
courteously, so courteously in fact, that Walker in spite of himself,
returned the bow with equal elaboration. Thereupon Mr. Lamb walked
decently down the driveway and turned into High Hill Road.

"A good sort, Walker," thought Lamb. " I'll remember him if ever I get
back to my former self. He believes in taking a chance."

Back on the Walker porch the man turned to his wife.

"Well, that's about the darndest horse I've ever seen," he said.




CHAPTER VII
THE BATTLE OF THE CHURCH


"AN exceptionally interesting trial," mused Mr. Lamb as he
ambled along High Hill Road. "If they can only get someone to
corroborate that ragpicker's story, the prosecution is going to have
tough sledding."

Other considerations occupied his attention. He remembered with
a pang that the morning had been lamentably free from any suggestion of
bacon and eggs. Few things worse could happen to Mr. Lamb.

"Horses," he continued musing, "seem to get through the day
pretty well on grass, but I won't eat grass. It would seem so
desperate. What would Hebe think if I ever told her I had eaten grass?"

He looked contemplatively at a near-by tuft. They were about
finishing breakfast at home now, well satisfied, gorged, no doubt.
Smelling agreeably of butter, they were preparing for church. Well, he
would miss that in any event.

"That bit there doesn't look so bad," he thought, eyeing the
tuft of grass with closer attention. "Suppose I try it just for fun?"

He glanced in either direction and approached the tuft.

"Well, here goes," he said to himself. "Might as well be a regular horse
while I'm at it."

He nibbled the grass tentatively, throwing his head back the better to
judge its taste.

Not at all bad," he decided. "Not bad at all. Sort of like a rugged salad."

For the better part of an hour Mr. Lamb continued along the road
fastidiously selecting choice patches of grass and experimenting with
various combinations of weeds, clover, and wild flowers. Some he found
palatable, others were hard to down. His appetite temporarily arranged
for, Lamb bent his mind on other lines of activity. He was not like
other horses, content to graze all day. Furthermore, he had come across
a cow cropping grass, and this had rather damped his ardour. He had no
intention at present of sharing breakfast with a cow. One had to draw
the line somewhere. His thoughts involuntarily strayed to Sandra, and
suddenly he remembered she had told him she was going riding to-day on
Simonds's horse. She had also said some rather silly things about
Simonds being a lovely man.

I'll fix that horse," he muttered or attempted to mutter. " I'll make him
rue this day."

With this edifying intention firmly fixed in his mind he
cantered off in the direction of Simonds's home. He knew exactly where
the horse passed most of its time--in a vacant lot directly back of
Simonds's place. A high fence surrounded the lot, and behind this fence
Simonds's horse was going about its own business. Mr. Lamb studied the
innocent animal with growing animosity. He was the kind of horse Mr.
Lamb most detested, a smug, plump horse, exactly like his master.

"He would have a fence to protect him," thought Lamb. "The coward. But I'll
settle his hash. Wonder if I can make it?"

He backed off for some distance, gathered his powerful muscles
together and made a lunge at the fence, clearing it neatly. Once on the
other side he suddenly changed his tactics. Instead of rushing at the
horse and demolishing it as he had intended, he decided first to
indulge in a little sport. He would be more subtle in his form of
attack. He would confound this horse, terrify it within an inch of its
life, put it out of commission for Sundays yet unborn.

Accordingly Mr. Lamb did things, things that no horse had ever
done before or had ever thought of doing. He lowered his body close to
the ground and curved his legs in a most unusual manner. Throwing his
head to one side, he allowed his tongue to loll out of his mouth at one
comer. With that careful attention to detail that marks the true
artist, he flattened his ears and rolled his eyes more unpleasantly.

"Guess I look funny enough," thought Lamb. "Wish I could foam a bit.
That would be the final touch."

He tried to work up a convincing-looking foam and succeeded partially.
In this manner he approached his unwary enemy.

"Love to have a snapshot of myself," he reflected. "No one would ever
believe it."

But several persons did believe it, among them being Simonds
himself. He was standing at his bathroom window, and his eyes were
starting out of their sockets. A few pedestrians also had stopped and
now stood transfixed by the fence. This was more unusual thanan
appearance of Halley's comet, and years after they remembered the event
far more vividly. Simonds, in a thin quivering voice, called to his
wife, his son, and his daughter, and together in various stages of
disarray, they witnessed the rout and almost total extinction of their
horse.

When the horse first spied the strange-looking object creeping
up on him he stopped what he was doing and gave his full attention to
it. At first he felt no fear. The phenomenon was entirely outside his
experience. But as Lamb drew nearer, a certain anxiety took the place
of curiosity and surprise. And when the horse caught a glimpse of Mr.
Lamb's lolling tongue and bloodshot eyes, he realised that here was
something that would not improve upon closer acquaintance.

Slowly and deliberately Lamb circled round his enemy until he
had reduced him to a state of abject terror. The horse's nerves were
shot to pieces. He was trembling in every limb. Then Mr. Lamb, rolling
his head drunkenly from side to side, his tongue sliding and slithering
revoltingly between his bared teeth, began to close in on the aghast
object of his enmity.

"A pretty picture I must make," thought Lamb, as he prepared for the
final coup.

Within a few yards of the wretched horse, he paused and
horrified the air with a series of heart-searing shrieks. The Simondses
drew back from the window, the pedestrians hastily abandoned their
points of vantage on the fence. The enemy almost swooned, but some
half-numbed instinct warned him that to remain longer in the presence
of that animal from hell was certain and painful death. Comparative
safety lay only in flight, and flee the horse did. Thrice round the lot
he sped, fear increasing his ambition to break all established speed
records. Lamb, now at full height, followed just closely enough to keep
the edge on the horse's terror.

On the third lap the horse decided that the enclosure was
altogether too small to accommodate both of them. He made a dash at the
fence. This time Lamb was not forced to jump, the enemy having gone
clear through the fence and cleared the way. Out into the streets of
the town the chase debouched. Fairfield Avenue swam past Mr. Lamb's
vision like a dream. They came to a beautifully kept lawn and tore
across it. The enemy rounded the corner of the house and came suddenly
upon a breakfast party on the rear lawn. It was either his life, or the
party's comfort, decided the horse. The party had to be sacrificed. Too
late for turning now. Through the breakfast party the panting animal
ploughed, scattering table and dishes to the four winds. Lamb noticed
as he passed through that one of the ladies had lost her kimono and was
rushing about with the table-cloth over her head. He knew the people,
but had no time to apologise. His interest in the scene had caused him
to lose slightly, and he now redoubled his efforts. The ground fairly
thundered beneath his hoofs as he dashed down the broad, quiet street
at the end of which was situated the stately church he attended. This
place of worship had broad doors on either side and a huge main
entrance. They were all open to the breezes on this balmy July morning.

The fleeing horse, either mistaking the church for a stable or
else deciding as a last resort to seek sanctuary, disappeared into the
main entrance, paused in bewilderment, then as if realising that this
was no place for aim, made a swift exit through one of the side doors.

Lamb in the heat of the pursuit followed without considering.
He found the congregation in a state of wild confusion that was in no
wise lessened by the sudden and tremendous appearance of a second and
even more terrible horse. Protected by his pulpit the preacher looked
boldly down upon his seething flock and for some odd reason began to
sing "Nearer My God To Thee." Several women, believing he was summing
up the situation altogether too mildly, fainted and lay in the aisles.
All of the sleepers were wide awake and convinced that they would never
sleep again.

It was at this moment that Lamb's better nature asserted
itself. AR he surveyed the scene of carnage he had been so instrumental
in creating, his conscience smote him and he promptly sat down, hoping
thereby to restore peace and harmony to the congregation.

Observing how quiet he was, one of the ushers timidly
approached him and attempted to lead him out. Lamb resisted with
dignity, and when the fellow persisted, he placed a hoof gently against
his chest and gave him a slight push. The usher slid down the aisle as
if it had been greased and brought up with a thump against a pew. No
more attempts were made to expel Mr. Lamb. He remained quietly seated
in the rear of the church, paying strict attention to his own affairs.
True, he was breathing hard, but so were many other members of the
congregation, including the preacher himself.

"This horse," announced the good man, peering at Mr. Lamb with
puzzled eyes, "seems to be rather a different type of horse. I don't
think he will disturb us, and evidently he intends to stay. Who knows?
Perhaps he is the first of equine converts."

Lamb's shoulders shook in encouraging mirth, and a polite noise
issued from his throat. Several people turned and regarded him with
timid reproval, and Lamb waved a placating hoof in their direction.
Mistaking his meaning they immediately turned back and looked at him no
more.

Yes," continued the preacher as if in a dream, " a strangely
odd horse. Never in my long experience--well, let's get on with, the
service."

Lamb followed the service closely, rising when the congregation
rose and sitting when it sat. His kneeling was an artistic achievement
and created such a stir that few people listened to the prayer in their
efforts to observe his contortions. Even the preacher became distrait
and found himself repeating toward the end of the prayer, "God, what a
horse! God almighty, what a horse!"

When the plate was passed for the offering, Mr. Lamb
involuntarily reached for his change. The gesture was eloquent but
futile. He averted his gaze, hoping no one had noticed the slip.

At the close of the service he was the first one to leave the
church and, as was his custom, he waited outside for his family. He had
gone this far, he thought to himself, he might as well see the thing
through. He little reckoned however, on his reception by Mrs. Lamb.

The docility of the horse throughout the service, his obvious
reverence and piety, had somewhat reassured this lady. She thought she
knew how to deal with any person or creature who actually believed in
God and took Him seriously. Consequently, as Lamb followed her and her
daughter along the sidewalk, taking his proper place on the outside,
she continually tried to "shoo" him, until Lamb in his exasperation
gave vent to a piercing shriek.

That settled Mrs. Lamb. From then on Mr. Lamb was perforce
accepted as one of the party, much to Mrs. Lamb's humiliation. Time
after time she passed acquaintances who in spite of their manners could
not refrain from asking her what she was doing with a horse. Mrs. Lamb
disclaimed any ownership of or responsibility for the animal. Lamb on
his part invariably stepped courteously aside and gave the impression
of following the conversation with polite attention. From time to time
he nodded his head as if in agreement.

His wife particularly disliked this. It seemed to place her on
a social level with a horse, and that was not to be tolerated. However,
Lamb asserted his rights, and Mrs. Lamb no longer had the heart to
challenge them. Hebe stuck to her father like a soldier, enjoying the
situation with a maliciousness not at all compatible with her recent
departure from a house of God. Toward the end of their progress the
walk developed into a race, Mrs. Lamb endeavouring to leave the horse
and Hebe behind, and the pair of them obstinately refusing to be left.

It was at this stage of the game that they encountered Sandra
Rush. Mr. Lamb stopped in his tracks and fixed the girl with a
triumphant eye. She met his gaze wonderingly for a moment, then turned
to Hebe.

"Why, what a peculiar horse you have," she said. "For some
reason he reminds me of your father. Something about the eyes. By the
way, where is your father, the attenuated Lamb?"

Hebe was startled by her friend's instinctive recognition of
the horse. Mrs. Lamb was returning reluctantly to join the
conversation.

"I don't know exactly," she hastened to reply. "He's probably
trailing about somewhere, or else just sitting. The major's an odd
duck."

"A nice duck," said Sandra.

"What's this about ducks?" inquired Mrs. Lamb, as she joined the group
in spite of the presence of the horse.

"I don't know," replied Sandra innocently. "I was just telling Hebe that
I intended to go horse-back riding this afternoon."

"On whose horse?" asked Hebe, and Mr. Lamb became immediately alert.

"That man Simonds's," said Sandra. "I ride on his horse each Sunday.
Such a lovely horse."

"Well, he's far from a lovely horse now," replied Hebe
sorrowfully. "From the glimpse I caught of him, that horse is a mental
case. It will be many a long Sunday before he regains his reason, not
to mention his health."

Sandra desired enlightenment, and Hebe told her all she had
seen and heard of the chase. At the end of the stirring recital, Sandra
turned and let her reproachful eyes dwell on Mr. Lamb. She found him
looking noble and unrepentant, but under the pressure of her gaze, the
great animal gradually wilted, until finally his head hung low to the
ground. Mrs. Lamb was outraged to see this demon stallion thus
subjugated by this rather questionable friend of her daughter. As a
matter of fact Mrs. Lamb resented Sandra's existence entirely. There
were so many reasons--all of them good. Sandra was all that Mrs. Lamb
would like to be and more than she had ever been.

"Why don't you ride this chap?" suggested Hebe. "It's all his fault."

"I shall," replied Sandra firmly. "I'll ride the devil to death. Simonds
will lend me a saddle."

So, much to Mrs. Lamb's relief, the horse followed Sandra, and
was subsequently saddled and tethered in front of her house. When she
came out from luncheon she found him leaning philosophically against a
tree, his forelegs jauntily crossed.

"You'll have to cut this foolishness out," the girl said
severely. "Only fake horses act like that. Don't make a spectacle of
me."

Mr. Lamb turned an idle head and surveyed her long and
approvingly. If she was as nice as that in riding togs, he considered,
what wouldn't she be in underwear?

When Sandra had released the halter, he crouched close to the
ground and peered round his shoulders at her. This proved a little too
much for Sandra. The girl began to laugh, and Mr. Lamb shook himself
impatiently. It was not the easiest position in the world to hold.

"I'll fix her," he said to himself.

When she finally decided to accept his grotesque invitation, Mr.
Lamb crawled hastily forward, and the girl found herself sitting on her
rump. She sat there only a moment before she slid slowly, but
inevitably, to the street. Lamb rose to his full height and looked down
at the young lady.

"That," she said from the gutter, "was a peculiarly snide
trick. I don't know what sort of a horse you are, but if you were a
human being I fancy you'd pull chairs from beneath people."

Mr. Lamb executed a neat little dance step and waited. This
time Sandra mounted him in the accepted manner, and Mr. Lamb
immediately set off backward, looking round from time to time to take
his bearings.

"If you have any gentlemanly instincts at all," said Sandra at
last, "you'll give up all this shilly-shallying and do your stuff like
an honest-to-God horse."

Her mind was in a state of confusion. She had ridden all her
life and met all types and conditions of horses, but she had never
encountered one that had behaved so incredibly as this one. In its very
resourcefulness there was something almost human.

At the girl's plea Mr. Lamb reversed his position and went
forward majestically through the town. Sandra felt as if she were
leading a circus parade. When they reached a dirt road he abandoned his
little conceits and settled down to real business. He carried her
swiftly, smoothly, and effortlessly over the ground. He was
experiencing a sense of freedom and power--a total lack of
responsibility save for the safety of thegirl on his back. Sandra had
never felt so exhilarated. Her mount was self-conducted. She had hardly
to touch the reins. Presently they came to a fence that bordered a long
rolling meadow Lamb slowed down and looked back inquiringly at his
passenger.

"It's all right with me, old boy," said Sandra. "Can you make it?"

Lamb showed her he could. He landed on the other side of the
fence as if he were equipped with shock-absorbers, then stretching his
body he streamed away across the meadow. Sandra had a sensation of
flying, and Lamb himself felt that his hoofs were touching the ground
only on rare occasions. After half an hour of swift running, Lamb came
to a halt and sat down abruptly. The girl slid to the grass. When she
attempted to rise, Lamb pushed her back with his nose and stood over
her. For a moment she looked at the horse with startled eyes, then
grinned.

"At it again," she said, pressing a cheek against his silky skin and giving
him a small soft kiss.

Mr. Lamb stepped back a few paces and regarded the girl with
heavy dignity. He was at a loss to know what to do about it. She had
kissed him in broad daylight and made other affectionate advances. A
stop should be put to this. Then something, some long restrained
impulse seemed to snap in Mr. Lamb, and he began to prance joyously. He
performed a dance of great vigour and elaboration, after which he went
racing round the meadow to give the girl some indication of what he
could do when he set his mind to it. When he returned she was calmly
reading a book she had fished from her pocket, _Green Mansions_,
and as Lamb, now adept at reading horsewise, followed several pages
over her shoulder, he became absorbed in the narrative and placed a
restraining hoof against the margin of the page to prevent her from
turning over before he had caught up with her.

In this manner some time slipped by, the horse reading over the
girl's shoulder, until at last growing tired of the heavy breathing in
her ear, she pushed his nose away and laid aside the book. Thereupon
Lamb dropped to the grass beside her and placed his head in her lap,
opening one large eye and looking up at her owlishly. Sandra picked up
the book and continued to read. Lamb nudged her, and she gave him a
sharp slap. He nudged her again and she commenced to read aloud. Lamb
settled down to listen. The situation was much to his liking.

An hour later when it was time to return home, the girl had to
pummel him to get him to wake up. Still half asleep, he struggled to
his feet and automatically reached for a cigarette, then remembering he
was a horse, frowned thoughtfully upon his companion. It was all too
bewildering Lamb decided, but it had been an altogether satisfactory
afternoon. Even while he had slept he had been deliciously aware of the
closeness of the girl's body. Lamb was not insensitive to such things.

The stallion's appearance at the Vacation Fund affair that
night was not an unqualified success. He first presented himself at the
dining-room window where his wife and daughter and the leading actor,
Mr. Leonard Gray, were indulging in a late, cold supper. Already the
tables on the lawn were occupied.

Other points of vantage were rapidly filling up. Cocktails were
circulating freely. All those who dwelt on the right side of the tracks
knew exactly the class of people for whom the Prohibition Act was
intended. They themselves were certainly not meant to be included. That
went without saying.

Mr. Lamb announced his presence by thrusting his head through
the window and unloosing a piercing scream. The dining-room was filled
with horror...It took several minutes to find Mr. Gray, and
several more to induce him to crawl from under the grand piano, where
he had apparently taken up permanent residence. Mrs. Lamb herself was
none too well. When she and her leading man attempted to resume their
dinner, their knives and forks clattered so violently against their
plates, it sounded as if they were playing at beating the drum. The
situation was saved by Hebe. That young lady of infinite composure,
gathering up practically all the salad, made a quick exit through the
window and led her father round behind some box bushes that encircled
the field of activity. There was a convenient opening in the bushes at
this spot, through which, unobserved, Lamb could get an idea of what
was going on.

Lamb thought the salad delicious. He had never tasted anything
quite so whole-heartedly satisfying in his life. And when Hebe returned
with a cocktail he felt that life was opening up indeed. A slight
difficulty arose here, however. Lamb was unable to drink from so small
a glass. He spilled most of its contents. His daughter, with admirable
resourcefulness, thereupon fetched a bucket, a bottle of gin, some ice
and oranges. While Mr. Lamb looked on approvingly, she mixed this
mighty cocktail and placed it before him. Lamb speedily inserted his
nose, swallowed several cupfuls and sank back with a sigh.

"All set now?" asked Hebe.

Lamb nodded enthusiastically.

"When it's empty, I'll fill it up," she assured him. "Sprawl
here and get an eyeful. I'll send Mel around with a tray of sandwiches.
This affair is going to be a riot."

At the time she little realised the remarkable accuracy of her prognostication.

When Melville Long appeared with the sandwiches he found Mr.
Lamb nose-down in the bucket, which from the sucking sounds that issued
from it, he judged to be empty. Mr. Lamb withdrew his head and received
his visitor graciously. He literally beamed upon him, extending a hoof
which Long seized and shook vigorously.

"A nice chap," thought Lamb. "One of the best. Wonder if he could mix me
another cocktail? Everyone else is having a good time."

With the aid of an eloquent nose he drew the young man's
attention to the dispiriting state of the bucket. The youth was not
long in catching Mr. Lamb's meaning. With a curt "We'll fix that," he
hastened away. When he returned he was carrying two bottles of gin and
an armful of oranges.

"Hebe's bringing the ice," he explained as he poured the gin in
the bucket and rapidly squeezed the oranges. "Didn't have room myself."

Together the young people arranged Mr. Lamb satisfactorily,
then left him to his own devices, their presence being required
elsewhere. Mr. Lamb was feeling remarkably well-disposed. He thrust his
head through the aperture and eyed the lawn. At the unexpected
appearance of the head an elderly lady jumped with the agility of a
girl.

"God bless me!" she cried, spilling her cocktail down her dress. "Did you
see that, Helen?"

Helen, her daughter, fortunately had not seen. She regarded the
hole in the bushes nervously. It was empty. Turning back to her
trembling mother, she endeavoured to soothe her, but the old lady had
been profoundly shocked. Mr. Lamb did not like this old lady nor was he
exceedingly fond of her daughter. Arranging his face in its most
demoniacal expression, he bided his time. When the two women were once
more gazing nervously at the hole he suddenly popped his head through
with instantaneous effect. Clinging to each other for support, mother
and daughter cut a swathe through the lawn party, uttering frightened
little cries in their flight. Not until they were safely ensconced in
their limousine and being driven rapidly home did they release their
hold on each other. Then they sat up very erect and kept tapping their
hands distractedly.

"I never saw such a face in my life. What was it?" asked the mother.

"Those eyes," intoned the daughter, and tightly closed her own.

Mr. Lamb's next opportunity to annoy someone came when a
gentleman moved his chair close to the aperture and carelessly tossed
his cigarette through it.

The still lighted cigarette fell on Lamb's nose and burned it
just a little. It was quite enough for Lamb. He promptly shot his head
through the hole again and took a good look at the offender. Lamb did
not like this man either. In his present state of liquor Lamb hated the
very sight of him. Therefore he withdrew his head and, thrusting a long
leg through the hole, placed it against the chair and gave a tremendous
shove. Man and chair parted company, but continued in the same general
direction. The chair knocked the legs from under an innocent bystander,
and its erstwhile occupant, passing completely through a group of
ladies, came to rest on a rosebush. Extricating himself from this he
hurried back to the hole and looked about for an enemy. None was to be
found save an old gentleman quietly observing the colourful scene.

"Did you do that?" demanded the man in a hostile voice.

"Do what? asked the old man amicably.

"Give me a clout just now," replied the other.

"Go away," said the old man deliberately. " You're drunk--drunker than
you realise."

The assaulted man had reason to believe him, and quickly
withdrew from the party. He did not feel quite drunk, but he imagined
he must be. Those cocktails. They were strange concoctions. Just the
same someone had given him a clout. There was no denying that. Drunk or
sober, he knew when he had received a clouting.

This supine activity, in spite of its pleasing results, began
to pall on Mr. Lamb. He yearned for larger fields. Taking another swig
at his monolithic cocktail,he rose and, fording a gate in the box
bushes, mingled with the party on the lawn. Although a trifle unsteady,
he managed to maintain his dignity. He conducted himself as he
conceived a gentle and unobtrusive horse should. The guests were rather
surprised, some even alarmed, but after a short time they accepted him
as a part of the evening's entertainment. Mrs. Lamb was so advanced.

From afar Mr. Lamb observed two particularly pretty girls in
intimate conversation. Approaching the girls quietly he nipped one of
them in an extremely ungentlemanly manner. The girl gave a startled
exclamation and, heedless of the onlooker, tenderly rubbed the injured
spot. Then she turned and saw the horse looking at her roguishly.

"My dear," she said to her companion, "you should know what that horse
just did. Why, the creature's almost human."

When Lamb next tried this unmannerly trick the afflicted lady
gave the gentleman she was conversing with a resounding slap in the
face and followed it up with a piece of her mind. The poor man looked
thoroughly mystified and wretched. The husband of the lady hurried to
the spot, and upon learning what had occurred, drew back mightily and
knocked the man down. He was literally dragged out. To-day he is still
wondering why.

Sapho had more than a suspicion that all was not going well
with her party. The Vacation Fund affair was threatening to become a
shambles. It was all the fault of that hell-born horse. Nothing could
induce it to go away. She decided to put on the final act--the _pice
de rsistance_ of the night. Her act. In the meantime, having become
bored with his surroundings, Mr. Lamb sat down and, leaning against a
tree, fell into a light doze.

When he next opened his eyes the curtains had been parted on
the flimsily constructed stage. His wife in his best pyjamas was
wallowing about in the arms of Leonard Gray, who was saying something
about being "far from my own glade," in a high, complaining voice. This
bored Lamb beyond endurance. With a shriek of utter abandon he galloped
toward the stage. Mr. Gray cast one horrified look at the speeding
horse, then with amazing expedition got even farther from his own
glade. Sapho also left at once, virtuously clutching the pants of
Lamb's pyjamas.

Springing to the stage, Lamb gave a drunken exhibition of a
horse's idea of clog dancing. The audience was in confusion. In the
midst of his hurricane efforts the stage collapsed, and Lamb
disappeared beneath a small avalanche of scenery, planks, and
trappings. Those who lingered to look back saw only a horse's head
projecting from the ruins. The horse was either dead or asleep.

Later that night Lamb feebly dug himself out and sought his
bucket. Someone had thoughtfully replenished it. He drank avidly and
made his way to the front of the house. He had some vague idea about
sleeping in the hammock, but failed to retain it. Resting his head on
the first step, he draped himself across the lawn and drifted off.

Mrs. Lamb was awakened the next morning by the maid announcing
that a passer-by had stopped to inform her that there was a dead horse
on the lawn.

"I hope to God he is," said Mrs. Lamb, as she pulled the covers
more securely over her head. Her only regret was that the animal was
not buried and well out of sight.



CHAPTER VIII
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE HORSE


AFTER several other early commuters had informed the maid that
a horse had passed out on the lawn Mrs. Lamb decided to look
upon the gratifying sight herself. But when she reached the veranda the
horse was no longer there, and the good lady was just as glad.

Lamb had awakened dizzily and made a tour of the ruins he had
created. Vaguely only did he remember the events of the night. The
little he did recall was sufficient to make him wish to forget.

"I'd better get to hell out of here," he said to himself. " There'll be no
living within a mile of Tilly for some time to come."

He cantered off to the station and hung about there for a while,
getting in the way of hurrying commuters and keeping an eye out for
Sandra. When that young lady undulated into view he trotted up to her
and stopped. So did Sandy. She put her arms round his neck and gave him
a good morning kiss. Lamb became a horse of stone. Dimly he heard an
insistent honking of horns, but paid little attention to them. He had
lost all traces of his headache. Sandy had kissed them away. He glanced
about him and discovered he was blocking the way of two motors, the
drivers of which were far from resigned. Steppingaside politely, he
looked after the retreating figure of the girl.

"She shouldn't have done that," thought Lamb, "but I'm not altogether sorry
she did."

At this point a state trooper tried to do things about the
horse. Lamb reared back on his hind legs and pawed at the air. The
trooper hurried elsewhere and returned with a long noose rope.

"Thinks he's Will Rogers," said Lamb to himself, as he watched the trooper
out of the tail of his eye.

Craftily anticipating the man's fell purpose, he took immediate
steps to outwit him. Carelessly Mr. Lamb manœuvred himself alongside
one of the town's most revered citizens, Mr. Robert Bates, fat, fifty,
and influential--a factor in local politics. As the noose came swishing
through the air Lamb crouched close to the ground and observed the rope
neatly pinion Mr. Robert Bates's arms to his sides. Feeling the rope
grow taut, the trooper tugged with a mighty effort and succeeded in
pulling Mr. Bates completely over the back of the crouching horse.
After that there were no impediments to bar the rapid progress of Mr.
Robert Bates across the road.

The trooper wound the rope round a telegraph pole, secured it
firmly, and turned to survey his prize. His prize lay struggling at his
feet, emitting a long succession of unpleasant sounds terminating with,
"I'll break you for this, my man."

Naturally this little episode had neither gone unnoticed nor
unappreciated. It was a pleasure to many to see Mr. Bates thus handled.
It was no pleasure to the state trooper. The humour of the situation
escaped him; but Mr. Bates did not escape. He would be with him always,
the trooper feared. Mr. Lamb with a triumphant neigh left the poor
fellow explaining to the sizzling first citizen that the unfortunate
occurrence was entirely due to the horse, and thunderingly cleared the
town. Thereafter all that remained of the horse was a not unblemished
reputation.

Mr Lamb was next discovered straining his neck to reach a
particularly delectable blackberry on the edge of the woods. Several
children, shepherded by an elder sister, were regarding the
enterprising horse. They had never seen a horse pick blackberries. The
children decided that he was a "funny horse," and made a jubilant noise
about it. Mr. Lamb, with a start of surprise, beheld his admiring
audience and immediately fell to cropping grass in the conventionally
accepted manner. The children then drew near the horse and patted him
with small adventurous hands. The horse did tricks to amuse them, and
they brought him a wild flower to smell. Amazingly the horse smelled
it, rolling his eyes to show his appreciation. He was enjoying himself
more than he had for years. Presently the horse took leave of the
children and once more sought the road. The children returned home to
hamper their mother's activities by telling about the funny horse.

After this pastoral interlude, Mr. Lamb continued cheerfully on
his way. Many miles now separated him from Sapho. He regretted the
absence of Hebe. A pity she, too, could not have turned into a horse.
The little russet man was responsible for it all. Had Lamb only
realised it at the time of their last conversation he would have
arranged things differently--introduced an element of order. However,
the little russet man had given him no chance. Now Lamb did not know
how things stood, whether he was to be a horse permanently, or when he
would stop being a horse. All such details should have been considered.

Mr. Lamb had taken to the more unfrequented roads and was now
in a territory unknown to him. He was decidedly on the loose. He came
to a meadow in which several sleek-looking mares were grazing. To Mr.
Lamb they seemed quite girlish. Without further ado he leaped the fence
and swaggered up to the mares. His unexpected arrival created quite a
sensation. The mares were all a-twitter. One began to tremble nervously
from an excess of sex consciousness. The stouter of her girl friends
merely gazed at Mr. Lamb with an expressively submissive look. The
third, however, was a mare of another colour. She looked at Mr. Lamb
for a long moment with a bold, appraising eye and seemingly found him
to her liking. Then she trotted off to a secluded part of the meadow,
occasion-ally glancing back at Mr. Lamb and tossing her head prettily.

This mare interested Mr. Lamb strangely. At the same time
something urged him to proceed with caution. There was no good in that
mare. Mr. Lamb followed her. There was something on his mind. He was
trying to remember the image the mare evoked. Something about the eyes.
Whose eyes were they?

When he reached the mare's side he peered into her eyes
thoughtfully. The mare returned his gaze languorously and rubbed her
nose against his. Mr. Lamb started back offended. Then he remembered.

This passionate creature had the eyes of Sapho when she was
developing her art in the arms of Leonard Gray. Undeterred by the
rebuff of her first effort, the mare circled round Mr. Lamb, gradually
closing until she again stood at his side. Suddenly she turned and bit
his neck, then sped away.

"Well, if she thinks I'm going to follow her," thought Mr.
Lamb, " she has another think coming. They're all alike the world over.
This mare is determined to get me into some compromising situation."

He spent the remainder of the afternoon alternately grazing and
repulsing the mare's advances. Her two friends looked at him hopefully
from time to time, but were ladylike enough to leave him to his own
devices. Finally the mare, disgusted with this aloof, dignified, and
apparently unemotional stallion, abandoned her attempts to seduce him,
and contented herself with gazing at him scornfully. She joined her
companions, and the three of them put their heads close together.
Occasionally they would lift them for a moment and look steadily at Mr.
Lamb, then resume once more their intimate conversation. Lamb, growing
uncomfortable under the continual scrutiny of the horses, sought
another section of the meadow, but the mares, as if fascinated,
followed him at a respectful distance and discussed his every move.

The situation was becoming intolerable, and Mr. Lamb was
heartily thankful when at sunset the three mares trotted off to one end
of the meadow and waited there expectantly. Lamb followed them at a
casual amble, and when a sleepy-looking farm-hand presently plodded up
to the fence and opened a gate, Mr. Lambslipped by unnoticed with the
other horses and continued with them across the field to the stable.

"This is what might be termed crashing the gate," he said to
himself, as he entered the stable and sought refuge in an empty stall.

He would have been perfectly satisfied with the oats the
farm-hand had provided had not the shameless mare kept thrusting her
head over the partition in order the better to observe him crunch.
Eating oats was a new experience to Lamb. He would have preferred to
have practised it alone, but every time he glanced up, the mare's large
eyes were fixed upon him with such unabashed curiosity, that Lamb
immediately suspended action and pretended he had finished.

Apparently the acquistion of a strapping new stallion meant
nothing in the life of the sleepy farm-hand. He closed the stable doors
and went his way, and Lamb, to escape the prying eyes of the abandoned
animal in the next stall, lay down, placed his head on a bucket, and
prepared to sleep. After the indulgence of the previous night, he was
too tired to ponder over the radically altered circumstances of his
existence. But before he took leave of consciousness Mr. Lamb once for
all washed his hands of the inquisitive mare, who was moving restlessly
about in the next stall.

Mr. Burnham was not quite so unobservant as his handyman, the
name being in this instance strictly a courtesy title. When he
discovered the sleeping stallion the next morning his heart was filled
with wonder and admiration.

"Why didn't you tell me of this, Sam?" he demanded of the farm-hand.

"Didn't rightly notice it myself," replied that individual. "He acted
so natural-like, seemed he must belong."

"And if a cavalry regiment had quartered here last night,"
observed Burnham, "I dare say it would have meant the same thing to
you."

He looked at the three mares suspiciously and hummed under his breath.

"I wonder" he continued as if to himself, then catching the look
of disgust in the brazen mare's eyes, he shook his head and returned
once more to the sleeping stallion.

"Funny way for a horse to sleep," Mr. Burnham drew his right
arm's attention to the horse's head resting on the bucket. The right
arm also had failed to notice this. He agreed, however. It was a funny
way for a horse to sleep.

Mr. Burnham then applied a foot with insistent pressure to the
stallion's rump, and Mr. Lamb looked up with sleepy indignation. Gazing
for a moment at the two strange faces, he replaced his head on the
bucket and closed his eyes.

"Get up, sir!" commanded Mr. Burnham, and this time the application of
the foot was slightly more vigorous.

"If this sort of thing is going to continue," thought Lamb gloomily, "I might
as well abandon all thoughts of sleep."

He rose, stretched his great body, and stepped out of his stall.
The two men followed his movements in silence. Lamb walked out into the
stable yard and, seeing a large trough full of water under the pump,
plunged his head deep into it. Very busily he put inhis front legs and
twirled his hoofs around. Picking up an empty flour sack he tossed it
about his head until he was partially dry. After this Mr. Lamb felt
considerably refreshed. He lifted his head proudly and looked down at
the silently watching men. Even the farm-hand had been able to detect
something out of the ordinary in the actions of the horse.

"Well, Sam, what do you think of that?" asked Mr. Burnham, inhaling a deep
breath.

Thinking was one of Sam's most vulnerable points. He was unable to put into
words his confused mental reactions.

"It ain't right," was all he said.

"If nobody claims that stallion," declared Mr. Burnham, "I'm
going to enter him in the show this Saturday. He's the finest body of a
horse I've seen in years."

At this Mr. Lamb set himself and paced gallantly round the
yard. He fully intended to earn his meal ticket. Sam eyed the horse
with growing suspicion. His imagination was at last aroused.

"Feed him," said Mr. Burnham, "and keep him well groomed. I'm
going to make inquiries. This seems like a gift from heaven. Those
mares need entertainment."

Burnham made inquiries throughout the course of the week, but
could find no claimant to the stallion. Those who had seen the horse,
or who had even heard remotely about it, declared they would have
nothing to do with it. They did not want the horse. As a result of his
investigations, Mr. Burnham had no scruples in attaching that horse to
himself. And Mr. Lamb was well pleased to be attached. He was living on
the fat of the land, and Sam, in spite of his mental deficiencies, was
proving himself to be an entirely satisfactory valet.

On Saturday Lamb was taken to the show. It was a semi-bucolic
affair, a thing of barter and trade, but more than a thousand
horse-lovers were present and assembled about the field. Mr Lamb was
placed in a shack and carefully guarded by Sam. The stallion seemed
greatly elated. Mr Lamb was really anxious to win a prize--to establish
a name for himself and Mr. Burnham.

It was a gala day for Sam. Lamb noticed that his valet was not
too dumb to indulge copiously in corn whisky, a great bottle of which
was reposing on a table in the shack. As time passed, Lamb began to
grow nervous. He hated waiting. When Sam stepped outside to view the
world, Mr. Lamb quickly elevated the bottle and drained its contents.
His nervousness immediately left him. He knew he would win a prize.
Nothing now could stop him. Sam returned and looked at the bottle with
an injured expression.

"Someone's been in here," he muttered. "Like to catch 'em at it."

He departed again and presently returned with another bottle, which he
uncorked and sampled appreciatively.

"Watch that bottle," he told the stallion when he next left to
mingle with the throng. "And if anyone tries to get at it kick 'em
through the shed."

Mr. Lamb made sure that no one would take liberties with the
bottle. He introduced the fiery fluid into his system, and felt even
more convinced that he was certain to win practically all the prizes.

A few minutes later, when he was taken out to be judged, the
whisky was taking full effect on him. Mr. Burnham was so keyed up
himself, he failed to remark the staggering gait of the stallion.
However, the judges and spectators noticed it as Mr. Lamb was led
thrice past the stand. When he endeavoured to prance bravely he got all
tangled up in his legs.

"How many legs have I?" he wondered. "Seem to have grown an extra pair."

"That horse seems to think he's imitating a drunkard," observed the judge.
"What on earth does he think he's doing?"

When he was brought up to be looked over at closer range Mr.
Lamb almost fell over one of the judges. He succeeded in regaining his
balance only by stepping heavily on that shocked dignitary's foot. To
make matters worse Lamb was seized with a violent attack of hiccoughs
which he was unable to control. There was a strong smell of alcohol in
the air. The judge regarded Mr. Burnham suspiciously.

"Got to do something to make up for all this," Mr. Lamb said to
himself. "Wonder what I can do--some sort of stunt--something a little
different."

An idea grew and flourished in his dizzy brain.

"I'll be a hobby-horse," he said to himself. "That's the very thing. I dare
say nobody ever saw a live hobby-horse before."

He thought for a moment, then, stiffening his legs and placing
his hoofs close together, he began to rock forward and aft, gaining
momentum with each swing. Every eye in the multitude was riveted on Mr.
Lamb. The judge stepped back and regarded him indignantly. This animal
was making a fool of them--taking their horse show altogether too
lightly. Cheers of encouragement broke from the spectators. They went
to Mr. Lamb's head. With a gratified expression he redoubled his
efforts. Mr. Burnham looked on helplessly, disgust written in every
line of his face. He felt as if he had been betrayed. Mr. Lamb turned
his head and winked at his owner as if to say, "We'll show these hicks
something new in the line of a horse."

He did. Each rock was bringing him nearer to the ground.
Finally, in an excess of zeal, Lamb made one supreme effort. He pitched
recklessly forward, held his position for one breathless moment, then
nose first continued to the ground, where he remained with eyes tightly
closed.

"I won't look," he said to himself. " This is the end. I'm disgraced."

"Will you please take that thing away?" asked one of the judges,
turning to the humiliated Burnham. " We don't want it at this show."

Burnham tried to raise his crumpled horse--the heaven-sent--but
Mr. Lamb refused to budge. One of the judges knelt down beside him and
sniffed.

"How crude!" thought Lamb dreamily. "These judges!"

"Why, this horse has been drinking corn whisky," the judge
announced, rising. "The animal is actually dead-drunk. Disgraceful,
Burnham, I say. Never heard of any such a thing in my life. Take him
away."

Burnham, regarding the stallion, wondered exactly how the judge expected him
to take his entry away.

He certainly could not carry the besotted horse from the field
in his arms. Nothing less than a derrick would be required to lift that
body. The judges apparently were of this opinion too, for they removed
themselves to another section of the field and continued with the show.
Lamb remained recumbent, gently snoring, in the centre of the field. A
circle of admiring spectators had gathered round him.

Before the day was done Mr. Burnham had sold the heaven-sent to
a fancy truck farmer. The price given had reflected no credit on the
value of Mr. Lamb. The truck farmer had turned in his own horse as part
payment.

Darkness had fallen by the time Mr. Lamb had recovered
sufficiently to be driven away. When he came to his senses he found
himself harnessed to a light farm wagon. He was being driven along a
country road.

"Sold down the river," he mused to himself. "Parted from family and friends."

Monotonously the fields and trees moved past. Lamb began to
recognise the road. He remembered certain landmarks. They were going in
the direction of his home. Presently his new master drew rein, and
getting down from his seat, began to search in the back part of the
wagon. Lamb fell into alight doze. When the farmer returned he found a
man clad only in pyjamas standing where just a moment ago his recently
acquired horse had stood. The man seemed a bit dazed and was pulling at
the shafts. At first the farmer was afraid to approach, then
indignation got the better of his timidity. He strode up to the
white-dad figure and looked at it wrathfully.

"What are you doing there?" he demanded. Lamb started and looked down at
himself.

"By God, I'm back," he said under his breath; then turning to the farmer,
he replied, "Just fooling with these shafts."

"And what did you do with my horse?" continued the farmer.

Mr Lamb dropped the shafts and seated himself by the roadside. The farmer
followed his example.

"What could I have done with your horse?" asked Mr. Lamb. "Do
you suppose that I tore him limb from limb and scattered his parts to
the four winds?"

"No," said the man after a thoughtful pause. "You couldn't have done that."

He paused and considered Mr. Lamb with thoughtful eyes.

"Then you were the horse," he announced in positive tones. "You must have been
the horse."

"What, me?" exclaimed Mr. Lamb. "You're crazy, sir. Do I faintly resemble
a horse?"

"Not now, you don't," replied the man with conviction, "but a
minute ago you did, and what's more, you acted like a horse--not a very
good horse, but enough of a horse to get along with. Now you're no
earthly use to me."

"Well, I'm relieved you recognise that fact," said Mr. Lamb. "What are we
going to do about it?"

"Listen," said the man, as if endeavouring to explain the
strange occurrence to himself. "This business isn't as simple as it
seems to you. This evening at the show I bought you for a horse. You
were dead-drunk on the field in front of hundreds of people. In spite
of that I bought you and gave you another chance. I was going to give
you a nice home and keep you away from drink. I've been over the ropes
myself. Don't object to a little fun within reason, but--"

"It's all right about that," put in Mr. Lamb. "Go on with this remarkable
yarn."

"It does sound crazy when I hear myself telling it," admitted
the man. " But it's true just the same, every word of it. I got you
sort of sobered up and started off home with you. Everything was
getting along nicely. At this spot I got down from my seat and turned
my back on you for a minute. When I turned back--no horse. You were
standing between the shafts pulling like the devil. Now answer me
this," he continued in a reasonable voice, turning full on Mr. Lamb. "A
minute ago there was a horse, or the dead image of a horse, standing
between those shafts. If you weren't that horse, who was the horse or
what was the horse? Answer me that."

Mr. Lamb did not want to answer him that. He realised that the
man--any man--was mentally unequipped to be told the true state of
affairs. He himself was reluctant to admit the terrible thing that had
happened to him. It was too far removed from the kingdom of God as
generally conceived. It was too mythological. Only a pagan would
believe and understand. And back of it all, Lamb knew, was the little
russet man.

"Well, I'll tell you," said Lamb slowly. "It was like this:
When I was a very little boy I just loved to play horse. That's a fact.
I played horse so much and so long that I was never able to break
myself of the habit. To this day--would you believe it?--I still play
horse. It's a weakness--a failing. It's like strong drink to other men."

Lamb halted to see what impression he was making on his
erstwhile owner. The man seemed absorbed in the story. Lamb himself was
beginning to believe it.

Well, to-night," he continued, "I gave a bit of a party, and I
guess we all had a little too much. I remember after going to bed that
it struck me as being rather a good idea to get up and play horse. I
slipped from my bed, you understand, quiet as anything so as not to
wake up my wife, who suffers from insomnia just like her mother, and
whose brother has lumbago, poor chap. Without making any noise I crept
down-stairs, turned the key in the front-door lock, and ran down the
road. I ran and ran and ran. After a while I came to this wagon and
crawled in between the shafts, and then you came along. That's how the
whole thing happened."

The climax seemed rather smeared for a good story, but it was
the best that Lamb could achieve at the moment. He looked at the man
hopefully and regretted to see that the farmer's face had fallen
considerably. Apparently he had lost interest in the story.

"It's all right," he said, " but it doesn't explain what became of my
horse."

"There really wasn't ever any horse at all, was there?" asked Lamb,
evasively.

"No," replied the farmer with elaborate sarcasm. "I was dragging this
wagon along by myself just for exercise."

There followed an uncomfortable silence.

"Well, I'm sure," said Mr. Lamb at last, as he rose and
stretched himself wearily, "I can't imagine what can have happened to
your horse. You can see for yourself that I'm not anything like a
horse."

"But I'm not so sure," the farmer replied, "that you weren't a
horse a little while back. There's something queer about all this."

"All right, have it your way," said Lamb with a yawn. "I'm not
your horse now. Have you any old bags in that wagon you don't need?"

The farmer tossed him a couple of sacks which Lamb draped about his
long body.

"What am I going to do about the wagon?" demanded the farmer in a
gloomy voice.

"Wait here for that horse," said Lamb. "He's sure to come back
if he ever existed at all. I begin to fear he was not alone in his
cups."

The farmer watched Mr. Lamb trudge off down the road, then
seating himself once more on the moist leaves and grass, he thought
over the strange events of the day until his head began to swim. Dawn
found him still sitting waiting for a horse that would never return.

"Why," Lamb asked himself, as he climbed quietly through one of
the lower windows of his own house, "why, if that little russet chap
took my silly outburst seriously, does he insist on making a practical
joke of it?"

Like a thief he stole upstairs and crawled into bed. Someone
was sleeping beside him. Switching on the light he gazed on the face of
his neighbour. It was Mr. Leonard Gray. Lamb grinned and quietly got
back into bed after turning off the light.

"These rehearsals are getting better and better," he thought as he composed
his limbs for slumber.



CHAPTER IX
THE HEIGHT OF TOLERANCE


MR. LEONARD GRAY was not habitually an early riser, but some extra
special instinct urged him to be up and doing this morning. Perhaps,
after all, the instinct was not so extra special. It may have been
due merely to his sense of touch and Mr. Lamb's whiskers, which were
extremely hardy and assertive. Tough, stubbly whiskers were the last
things in the world that Mr. Gray expected to encounter. They had not
been included in his plans. Consequently, when it was borne in on him
that he was tenderly stroking a cheek abundantly provided with a week's
growth of knifelike hair, he opened his eyes with no little interest
to see wherein he had erred.

Nor had Mr. Lamb expected to have his whiskers stroked either
tenderly or otherwise. In fact she had forgotten all about whiskers and
imagined he was still a horse. He, too, opened his eyes and looked
uncomprehendingly into those of Mr. Leonard Gray. Lamb drew back his
lips and exposed his teeth in a most disagreeable expression, then
suddenly realising he was no longer a stallion, he controlled his
natural impulse and grinned pleasantly at his companion. It is
difficult to say whether the snarl or the grin did the most to upset
Mr. Gray's delicately organised nerves. It came to the same thin; in
the end. With a stifled gasp the splendid fellow gave Mr. Lamb the
entire bed and dartingly began to dress.

"Where's the fire?" asked Mr. Lamb easily. "No need to pop off
like that. There's plenty of room in this bed. Lie down and get your
beauty sleep."

"Only wish I could," the young man faltered, briskly slipping
his arms through the legs of his trousers. "Must run along. Worked to
all hours last night on the books of the Woodbine Players...got so
fagged I couldn't go home. Crawled right into your bed and slept like a
top."

"One of the most active gadgets I know," observed Mr. Lamb.

"That's so, too," agreed Mr. Gray, grittily getting into his shoes. "Tops
are active, aren't they?"

"Very," said Mr. Lamb, "when on pleasure bent."

This point having been settled there seemed to be nothing left
to talk about. Mr.Lamb lay quietly back in bed and watched Mr. Gray at
his toilet, his eyes following every movement of the desperate youth.
This was terribly trying to Mr. Gray. Dressing to him was a ritual
which he preferred to perform in private.

"Don't you ever wash in the morning?" Lamb asked at last, unable to
restrain his curiosity.

"Oh, yes," said Mr. Gray quickly. "Always wash in the morning, always."

"Well, you're not washing this morning." continued Mr. Lamb argumentatively.

"I will, though, I will," the young man explained hastily. "When I get home
I'll tub it."

"That will do you no end of good," said Mr. Lamb. "I say, your
collar's all rucked up in the back, and for God's sake do something
about those trousers. You can't face the world in such a confiding
condition."

Mr. Gray, with a convulsive movement, tried to attend to
himself in two different places at once. Lamb continued to observe him
with quietly brooding eyes. An old sabre was hanging on the wall near
the bed. Lamb lazily reached up and took it down. Mr. Gray redoubled
his efforts as he watched his languid host delicately test the blade,
then thoughtfully transfer his gaze to him.

"Do you know something?" observed Mr. Lamb. "This old sabre is
very sharp. It would snip that head off your shoulders as easily as
slicing cheese."

Gray gave a hysterical little laugh and continued his dressing
in a far corner. Suddenly, Lamb half rose in bed and darted the sabre
at him. With a strangled cry Gray looked helplessly about him.

"Your vest," said Lamb. "Your vest. It's buttoned all wrong."

With dancing fingers the pride and joy of the Woodbine Players
readjusted his vest, snatched up his coat, and moved warily, toward the
door. If he could only make it life would be just a little bit more
secure. The sabre flashed out and barred his path. Gray shrank back.

"Before you leave," said Lamb, "I'd like to ask you a question, just one
question."

Gray feared that question. Why had his torturer reserved it to
the end? Suppose Sapho, unaware of her husband's return, should enter
the room at this minute with some shockingly revealing endearment?
Gathering his histrionic abilities for one heroic effort, he half
looked at Lamb and smiled. His face gave the impression of a wax figure
that had partly melted in the sun. Lamb was studying his neck intently,
and Mr. Gray was unhappily aware of his gaze. Also he was not forgetful
of the presence of the sabre. Was this to be the end of what he had
fondly believed to be a picturesque career?

"Throw back your head," said Lamb abruptly, poising the sabre in his hand.

Gray, as if hypnotised, elevated his chin and awaited the stroke of doom.

"If you think there's been anything--" he began, but Lamb cut in on his
last-minute perjury.

"Tell me," said Lamb, his eyes still fixed hungrily on Mr. Gray's neck,
"where do you buy your ties? I want you to get me some."

Gray almost collapsed. So that was the reason for Lamb's long
scrutiny. He snatched at his neck and tore off the colourful
decoration, tossing it to the man on the bed. "Here," he said
hurriedly. "Take this one. Piles of them at home. I'll send some over."

"Bring 'em," suggested Lamb.

"I will," breathed Gray. "I will. First thing."

He left Lamb reclining on his bed happily inspecting the
necktie. Sapho was sleeping the gloating sleep of a successfully
unfaithful wife. Gray tiptoed past her door with face averted. No time
to warn her now. Safety, assured bodily safety, was the first
consideration. Never had life seemed so sweet. The fresh morning air
fanned his face. He passed an unsteady hand across his forehead and
found he had been perspiring profusely. Then the reaction came. He
began to laugh softly--secretively. Lamb was such a fool, so
ridiculously unaware of his horns. These husbands! They were all alike.
And their wives. They were all alike, too, or almost all alike, if you
pressed your campaign in a certain manner. By the time he had reached
his home, Mr. Leonard Gray had thoroughly convinced himself that the
joke was on Mr. Lamb. In the meantime that gentleman to whose head he
had so adroitly affixed horns was falling blissfully asleep with the
sabre held lightly in one hand and Mr. Gray's necktie in the other.

Hebe took a long chance that morning and quietly sought her
father's room. She was surprised and delighted to find him there
asleep, but a little puzzled by the playthings he had taken to bed with
him. Mrs. Lamb had failed to announce to her daughter the presence of a
visitor. If the truth must be known, she had entirely forgotten to tell
anyone at all about it. The household had been unaware of the great
honour Mr. Leonard Gray had conferred upon it. So far as Mrs. Lamb was
concerned, it would continue to remain unaware. Hebe thought there was
something not distantly familiar about the necktie.

"The major must be getting childish," she said to herself as she gently
closed the door.

"Sapho!" she whispered, and Sapho woke up with a startled cry. "Father
is sleeping in his own bed for a change."

In utter consternation Mrs. Lamb looked at her daughter. Her frame of
mind was not to be envied.

"Hebe," she said after a long pause, "I told you distinctly
never to come near this part of the house on Sundays. Since that
Vacation Fund affair and the strange disappearance of your father my
nerves have gone to pieces. I need rest. I must have repose. You know
it."

"But the major's back," replied Hebe. "Come and look."

That was just what Mrs. Lamb most objected to doing at that
inauspicious moment. As she gazed blankly at her daughter a keen
realisation of the situation ominously grew within the lady.

"Have you seen him?" she asked, after a moment's hesitation.

"With these eyes," responded Hebe.

"Did he look--er--as usual?" Mrs. Lamb was growing confused.

There was something mysterious about that room. First her
husband turned into a horse, then her lover turned into her husband.
Peace and security seemed to have departed from the world.

"The picture of himself," answered Hebe, "only there was
something sort of strange about him. He had a sabre in one hand and a
necktie in the other."

Mrs. Lamb gave a start and smothered an exclamation.

"What sort of necktie was it?" she asked.

"That's the funny part about it," said Hebe in a puzzled voice.
"It didn't look like the major's at all. I have it! It looked exactly
like Leonard Gray's."

"O-o-o-oh!" The sound came fluttering from Mrs. Lamb's lips.
The colour had left her face. So that was all that was left of Leonard
Gray, only a necktie.

"Was the sword frightfully bloody?" she asked, fascinated by the horror
of the situation.

I didn't notice," said Hebe, looking strangely at her mother, "but I seem
to think it was."

once more the low cry issued from her mother's lips. She sank weakly back
on her pillows and closed her eyes.

"Leave me," she said to her daughter.

Already she was picturing herself playing a most important rle
in a fashionable murder trial. Too bad about Leonard, though. Mrs. Lamb
then considered her husband. She was more than a little suspicious of
Lamb. A well-nigh unbelievable conviction was forming in her mind. For
the past few days she had dismissed it, fearing it might unbalance her
reason. There was no getting away from the fact, however, that it had
been a strangely acting horse...so like het husband in many ways.
The whole thing was mad, wild, impossible, but--but-- if she was really
married to a man who even occasionally turned into a horse, surely the
courts could do something about it. Everything was altogether too much
for Mrs. Lamb. It was not a successful Sunday morning. Her life should
have been so different--so much larger and more magnificent. What
sacrifices she had made in marrying that man! She was overwhelmingly
sorry for herself and only a little bit sorry for Mr. Leonard Gray,
indubitably deceased.

Later in the day Hebe was having a business meeting with
Melville Long. The meeting was held on the veranda and presided over by
a decanter of Scotch.

"There is only one of two things to be done," the young lady
began briskly. "Either you'll have to ruin me or else start
bootlegging."

"Why not do 'em both," suggested Long, "and thus make assurance doubly sure?"

"Might be something in that, too," admitted his fair companion,
"but the way I see things at present one or the other must be done."

"Well, I draw the line at ruination," declared Long in a more serious voice.
"I'm off that ruination idea entirely."

"There's something in it," Hebe went on. "We won't dismiss it altogether.
If you ruin me and I actually find myself with child--"

_"Enceinte_ is the way nice people say it," Mr. Long corrected.

"Don't interrupt," said Hebe impatiently. "It all comes to the
same thing in time. As I was saying, if I were actually beyond doubt
that way I know the major would do the handsome thing. He'd see us
safely married and give us a chunk of cash. He's got no end of money.
Sapho would be annoyed at my carelessness, but the major would fix her.
You see, then we'd be all married and everything."

"Yes," agreed Mr. Long. "Particularly everything. With the head
start we'd have you could easily be a grandmother before you were
thirty-five. Then again, there's an element of amateurishness about
ruination. People might get the idea I didn't know my way around.
Wouldn't like that. Bootlegging is better. I'd feel more independent."

"All right," said Hebe impartially. "Why not try that? We could
make enough money in a year to start out on our own. Ruination can
easily wait."

"I know a guy down in the slum district," Long continued
meditatively. "He's a nice guy, and I know he'd start me off right--get
me the stuff and all that."

"And we could use one of our cars," put in Hebe. "The big one. That would be
slick for deliveries."

"We've certainly got to do something if we want to get married,"
the young man went on broodingly. "Honest work takes too long. Painting
won't net me a red, and the old man absolutely refuses to come across
until, as he puts it, I've proved myself. He goes on about me as if I
were a problem in geometry. Always asking me to prove myself."

It was here that Sandra put in an appearance, and the edifying alternatives
were explained for her consideration.

"I think," said Hebe on concluding, "that ruination would be the best and
safest, don't you?"

"It would be by far the most agreeable," Sandy decided. "Also
the most effective. Bootlegging, though, is pretty exciting. I'd like
to try it myself. And Mel has a lot of rich friends. He could poison
them for a long time before they actually died or lost their sight."

"By the way," said Hebe, changing the subject for her friend's benefit,
"the major's back."

Sandra brightened visibly, and Long looked startled. "That's so nice," said
Sandra. "Is he tired of being a horse?"

"Don't know," replied Hebe. "Haven't spoken with him yet. He was pounding
when I last saw him."

During Mr. Lamb's absence the three young people had discussed
him earnestly, and had come to the conclusion that, as incredible as it
seemed, he had been the horse. All had advanced their reasons, and they
had seemed incontrovertible. Hebe had even related her father's
experience with the russet man and his strange behaviour. This had
clinched matters. Mr. Lamb had been, and probably still was, the horse.
There was no getting around that amazing fact. Not being so far removed
from fairy-tales themselves they accepted Mr. Lamb's metamorphosis
without much difficulty.

At this moment the subject of their conversation blithely entered the room.
He was resplendent in Mr. Gray's tie.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen," he said amiably, then turning to
his daughter. "Did you get my letter, Hebe?"

"Yes, indeed," replied Hebe, with undisguised sarcasm. "And all your
telegrams and that lovely box of candy."

Mr. Lamb sat down and considered the three young people with an affable
expression.

"I forgot to tell either you or your mother," he continued, the
lie coming with surprising readiness, "that I have an important deal on
in Philadelphia. I might have to pop off at any moment. Probably open
an office there."

"Why not a livery stable?" suggested Hebe.

Mr. Lamb favoured his daughter with a false laugh.

"Why a livery stable?" he asked daringly.

"Honest to God," spoke up Sandra, "tell us something. Weren't you that
horse? You're among friends."

"Suppose I should say yes?" parleyed Mr. Lamb. "Then I'd say
that you were one of the worst and best horses I've ever ridden,"
replied Sandra.

Lamb considered the situation for a short time. He realised
that these three young people not only thought he was the horse, but
also knew he was the horse.

"What do you think?" he asked, turning to the tactfully mute Melville Long.

"Well," said Long, "no natural-born horse could have consumed
cocktails the way that horse did. Never saw anything like it. And the
sandwiches--it must have had human blood in its veins."

Lamb was regarding Sandra closely. What would she think if he
came out and admitted that he had been the horse? She could never
possibly afford to associate with a man who turned into things. At the
moment he heartily regretted ever having had anything to do with the
little russet man. He bowed his head and unhappily studied the extreme
tips of his shoes.

"I guess I was that horse," he said at last in a low voice. "I
don't know much more about it than you all do. It just happened. There
I was--a horse. But I'm not a horse now," he added hopefully.

Hebe went over to her father and gave him one of her rare
kisses. Sandra sat as close to him as possible without sitting on his
lap.

"Do you remember," she said, "I kissed you?"

"I might be a horse again or something worse at any moment." Mr. Lamb looked
at her warningly.

"How does it feel to be a horse, Mr. Lamb?" Melville Long's voice was
replete with interest.

"Remarkable," began Mr. Lamb, and stopped.

A motor was fussing up the gravel in the driveway. Mrs. Lamb
came in and sank down exhausted. Even the sight of her husband failed
to revive her. Then she saw the tie. She sat up, an expression of
horror marring her features. All day long she had been searching for
traces of Leonard Gray, hoping against hope that he might have escaped
with only a wound. Here was the person who had done her lover--perhaps
her last--to death, callously conversing while his victim's necktie,
like a trophy of war, hung flauntingly from his neck.

Mr. Lamb went through all about Philadelphia again. Mrs. Lamb
scarcely heard him. Her eyes were fixed on the colourful tie. Hebe,
noticing the direction of her mother's gaze, also looked on the necktie
and became uncomfortably interested in it.

"That's a terrible tie, major," she remarked. "Where did you get it?"

"Ask your mother about that," replied Mr. Lamb easily. "She knows more
about my neckties than I do."

"Murderer!" Mrs. Lamb had been unable to restrain the accusation.

Mr. Lamb sat up appalled.

"Have I killed someone?" he asked. "This is the first I've heard of it.
Hebe made no mention of a murder."

Mrs. Lamb, now beyond control, came close to him and extended a tragic
finger.

"What did you do with the body?" she demanded in a low vibrating voice.
"And all the blood. What became of that?"

Mr. Lamb was no more startled than were Hebe and her friends.
Their round eyes regarded the murderer wonderingly. Mr. Lamb pulled
himself together and returned the accusing gaze of his wife.

"What did you do with the body first?" he inquired. "That would be more
to the point."

Mrs. Lamb turned away and walked to the window. Her face was
safe from scrutiny. At that moment Mr. Leonard Gray himself saw fit to
arrive.

"Here they are!" he cried, placing a package on Mr. Lamb's lap.
"All new. Went into the city and picked them out myself If you like the
tie you're wearing, you'll go crazy about these."

"Meet my chum, everybody," said Mr. Lamb quietly. "We're room-mates now.
Thanks for the ties, Len."

Mrs. Lamb, with a distracted look about her, fluttered her hands
above her head and left the room. Leonard Gray followed. The murderer
threw himself back in his chair and favoured Sandra, Hebe, and Mr. Long
with a benign smile.

"And they all lived happily ever after," he said.

"Let's have a look," urged Hebe. "Mel could use a new tie."

Mr. Lamb obligingly opened the package.



CHAPTER X
LAMB TAKES THE AIR


"SUPPOSE I should tell him I've just gotten over being a horse?"
Lamb mused to himself, as he politely eyed his customer, an aged
person of many moth-eaten millions. "I guess the old blighter
would drop those bonds and close his account on the spot."

He resisted the temptation to experiment with the old
gentleman, and thereby materially added to his own not inconsiderable
wealth.

When his customer had departed, Lamb summoned his secretary to
him and told her all about Philadelphia. He had already told her about
Philadelphia, but this time he told her better. He shrouded his future
movements in tantalising mystery. Lamb was taking no chances. God only
knew what the little russet man had in store for him, and Lamb very
much doubted if he had taken even God into his confidence. He would
have liked to have had a short conversation with the little russet man,
but he knew of no way to get in touch with him.

All that week Mr. Lamb had been hearing about the horse. He had
gleaned impressions from many unexpected sources. The stallion had
created no end of excitement in the town and surrounding countryside.
An enterprising reporter had strung together a story which the city
people laughed at and dismissed, little realising that it was the most
conservatively handled piece of news in the paper. Simonds was the most
voluble about the horse. Also the most bitter. He had sent his own
horse away for a change of scene. The poor animal was actually pining
away in its lot, constantly fearing a return of that diabolical
stallion. The state trooper had lost his easy post. He no longer
postured about the station, a target for the come-on glances of women
who with a sigh of relief had seen the last of their husbands for that
day.

Lamb was highly edified by what he heard. He had been a horse
among horses. His exploits would be remembered. Whenever Mrs. Lamb
referred viperously to the Vacation Fund debacle he would thoughtfully
finger his necktie and look at her significantly. Mrs. Lamb quickly
changed the subject. Leonard Gray's neckties were constantly reminding
her of a most disturbing interruption of what had started out to be an
unusually diverting week-end.

"Wonder what we're going to be next?" Hebe speculated one
evening, entering into the situation with the enthusiasm of her years.
"How'd you like to be a giraffe? "

"God forbid," said Mr. Lamb quickly. "I hope the little chap
feels that he has sufficiently convinced me of the unwisdom of
unconsidered wishing."

But the little russet man did not feel that way about it, and
when Lamb woke up one morning he found himself perched precariously on
one of the four posts of his bed. When he attempted to stretch, as was
his wont, he heard an unfamiliar swish in the air.

"I'm something else," he said to himself. "Wonder what it can be?"

Fluttering lightly to the floor, he observed himself in the
mirror. His excitement was intense. What he saw was a smoky-looking
seagull with black rings round its eyes. The effect was that of
detached thoughtfulness. Mr Lamb spread his wings and looked with
approval on their snow-white lining. He was a good gull.

"As gulls go," he admitted to himself, "I dare say I'm about as
good as they come. Wonder how it feels to fly? Don't know the first
thing about it."

He went to the table and looked at his watch. Sandra would be taking
the usual train. He had plenty of time.

"No use disturbing the household," he thought, hopping to the
open window and balancing himself on the edge. "Well, here goes for a
Lindberg. Hope I don't foul a tree."

Lamb extended his wings and took the air. He landed in some
confusion among the box bushes, but managed to beat his way out with
the loss of only a few unimportant feathers.

"Must do better than that," he commented. "I'd best try a couple of
take-offs."

He gave himself a running start and left the ground. This time
he flew with gathering confidence and landed on Hebe's window, upon
which he tapped gently. That young lady woke up without effort and
immediately let him in. She had schooled herself to be surprised at
nothing and to be prepared for anything. She looked at her father with
admiring envy.

"Golly," she said, "I wish I was in your shoes." Lamb extended
one claw and emitted a peculiar crackling noise intended to be a laugh.

"How does it feel to fly, major?" his daughter continued.

The gull gave an exhuberant hop expressive of much enjoyment, and Hebe
understood.

"How about grub?" asked Hebe. "I suppose you don't fancy a couple of
succulent worms?"

The gull shuddered and almost twisted its had off in the violence of its
opposition to this revolting suggestion.

"Well, come along," said Hebe, slipping into her dressing-gown and quietly
opening the door.

Mr. Lamb skipping lightly behind his swift-footed daughter,
followed her to the pantry, where she set before him a bowl of puffed
rice and cream. When he had eaten his fill of this he delicately
polished his beak on a convenient napkin and spread his wings
gloriously for the benefit of his daughter. After this he left the
house and made his way to the station.

From a great height he saw Sandra leaving her house to start
off for the station. Swooping dizzily down the air lanes, he circled
round her head, then came to rest at her feet. Without a moment's
hesitation, for Sandra had also been warned to be prepared for
anything, she picked him up and held his head against her warm neck.
Mr. Lamb was so elated that he freed himself and tried to
loop-the-loop. This enterprising endeavour resulted in a small
disaster. Mr. Lamb found himself flat on his back in the gutter. His
claws were busily churning the air. It was a ludicrous sight, and Sandy
laughed at the gull. Lamb adjusted himself with as much dignity as he
could summon to his aid, and after a certain amount of necessary
preening, preceded the girl to the station in a more orderly, if not so
spectacular, manner. As he planed along the platform he took occasion
to knock off Simonds's hat and had the satisfaction of seeing it roll
to the tracks, where its usefulness was destroyed by the thundering
arrival of the city-bound express.

When no one was looking Mr. Lamb slipped into the baggage-car
and hid himself behind a trunk. Later, when he had made sure that the
conductor was several cars ahead, he made his way on foot through the
train. He was searching for Sandra. As the gull swayed cautiously down
the aisle of the first car heads popped out from behind newspapers and
amused eyes followed his progress. Mr. Lamb was uncomfortably aware of
the interest he was creating.

"Why can't they mind their own business," he thought, "instead of staring
at me? "

At the end of the car he turned and favoured its occupants with
a hoarse cry, at the sound of which several heads darted back behind
the newspapers.

The other half of Sandra's seat was unoccupied. Mr. Lamb
quietly hopped up to it and sidled as close to her as possible. She
spread her paper accommodatingly, and together they read the news of
the day. From this Mr. Lamb looked up in time to discover the approach
of the conductor. Mr. Lamb wanted no trouble. He was too large a gull
to hide, too large to creep under the seat. Then a brilliant idea
occurred to him. With one swift, insinuating look at Sandra he fell
down on the seat and allowed his head to dangle over it. The head
swayed distastefully with the rhythm of the train. To all intents and
purposes the young lady was carrying a dead seagull to the city.
Sandra, after some quick thinking, fathomed Mr. Lamb's intention and
ordered her actions accordingly.

The conductor, arriving at her seat, looked down at the seagull
with an expression of disgust. Years of service had inured him to all
types of commuters. He had seen them carrying all sorts of surprising
packages from vacuum-cleaners to French pastry. He had never, however,
previously encountered a commuter carrying a dead seagull.

"That's a strange thing to be lugging about with you," he informed Sandra.

"He just died," replied the girl sadly. "I'm taking him to be stuffed.
The poor old thing has been in our family for years."

She picked Mr. Lamb up by his legs and dangled him convincingly
before the conductor's eyes. Although Lamb felt a rush of blood to his
head, he continued to act the part of a dead gull. The conductor seemed
convinced, especially when the bird flopped limply against his face.
The remainder of the trip was uneventful, and when the train reached
the station Sandra once more seized Mr. Lamb by the legs and carried
him out with her. He was very much squeezed and rumpled. Once when a
stout lady backed into him he was forced to resort to rather brutal
tactics in order to induce her to remove a large portion of herself
from his face. With an indignant expression, the stout lady looked
suspiciously about her, then hewed a path through the crowd.

By the time he had been carried to the street Lamb was
literally almost a dead gull. He cocked his head up as well as he could
and looked pleadingly at the girl. She took him in her arms and
smoothed his feathers. Lamb felt better. Then to the astonishment of
many on-lookers he rose in the air and circled above Sandra's head. The
on-lookers glanced at the girl questioningly. They had seen an
apparently dead sea-gull come to life and fly away. Sandra was
unconscious of their gaze. Higher and higher mounted the gull. All he
could see now was the white face of the girl straining up to him.
Impulsively she raised one hand in farewell, and something white
fluttered in the air, then she faded from view.

For some reason, when Sandra turned away, her eyes were just a
little bit moist. She wondered if he were lonely up there, and if he
would ever come back.

"He doesn't know the first thing about being a seagull," she
said to herself. "Anything could happen to him up there. Might even run
into an aeroplane."

All that day Sandra was a greatly preoccupied young lady in
underwear. She kept remembering the excited throbbing of the bird's
heart as she had held it in her arms. Mr. Lamb was rapidly becoming a
problem seriously to be considered. His sardonic grin and long lean
body drifted across her vision. She was very much afraid she loved this
man who happened at the moment to be a bird floating somewhere about in
the sky. One of the reasons that made her more than suspect she loved
him was the fact that she so thoroughly detested his wife.

"Have you any knowledge of your father's movements?" Mrs. Lamb asked her
daughter that night.

"Not the slightest," answered Hebe truthfully, "but if you'd
taken the trouble to look you'd have seen there's been a bird in his
room."

Mrs. Lamb was slightly revolted. If she were only sure. If she
could only get absolute proof. She thought of life with Leonard Gray
and chewed her steak with abandon.

That night Hebe put a bowl of puffed rice on the back steps. At
three o'clock in the morning she was awakened by a series of wild
cries, and going to the window, saw a large bird chasing a cat round
the yard. When she came down to breakfast, all that remained of the
combatants was some fur and a few feathers. Hebe picked one of the
feathers up and examined it attentively. It was smoky-grey, with a dash
of white on the inside.

"The major's been here all right," said Hebe, half aloud, as
she collected the rest of the feathers and carried them to her room.



CHAPTER XI
AN AERIAL INTERLUDE


MR LAMB had been a seagull for several days, and had become a
thoroughly experienced flyer. Since his defeat of the cat he
had steadfastly refused to return home. He was going to be a
seagull up or down to the last detail, but in doing so he was
becoming an extremely hungry bird, not being able to accommodate his
appetite to raw fish and the cast-off bounty of ocean liners. Once he
had brought himself to nibble at a fair-looking piece of grape-fruit
sliding along the waves, but had swallowed so much salt water in the
attempt that he had been forced to abandon the object of his desire.

To-day he had been feeling rather light-headed as he swooped
and circled over lower Manhattan. His sharp eyes looked down into the
dark caons of stone pierced by many windows. He thought about the
office buildings. He considered them from a new point of view. Hitherto
he had looked on them as outstanding examples of American industry and
progress. To have things to do with them had always given him a feeling
of accomplishment--a comfortable sense of regimentation. To-day he was
not so sure.

"Millions of souls in those buildings," he mused, sweeping
close to his own. "There's a good-sized town in that building of mine
alone. And they're all working. Thousands of them loafing...just
getting by. Poor pent-up devils! Suppose the little russet man had
turned them all into gulls instead of picking on me. What a remarkable
sight it would be. Trails of gulls issuing from every window. The air
filled with the beat of many wings...all released!"

Lamb pictured the scene to himself. He was weary and painfully hungry.
Still he soared--alone.

"Scissors dropped," he continued. "Pens rolling of abandoned
desks. Stocks and bonds and crisp, clean bank-notes suddenly left
unguarded."

Lamb, in his reverie, saw the sky growing black with gulls.
Birds pushing their way to freedom, crowding on one another. He painted
a mental picture of a little group of conscientious gulls, still held
by habit, poising on window-ledges and peering back into their offices
to make sure that all was in order before they took to the air. What a
sight! A river of gulls, following the precedent of years, homeward
bound across the bay to Staten Island. Another river flowing up-town,
and a turbulent one into Brooklyn. A bridge of gulls passing over the
Hudson. It would split at various commuting tracks and grow thinner at
each suburb. Gulls everywhere pecking at windows, vainly trying to get
their wives to understand that something unusual had happened to
them--actually to them, their time-tabled husbands.

Lamb's thoughts were growing wilder as his hunger increased. He
saw dense masses of gulls flocking to the subway stations, impelled
there by habit. The dark tunnels would be filled with several
counter-flying columns of frantically surging wings. Gulls trampled on
in trying to get out, when they might just as well have been flying in
the open air. And the buses, too. They would be packed to the top
rails. Birds swaying in close ranks. All going home--home to their
wives. Mostly men.

The girl gulls wouldn't go home. Not they...They would be far
too enterprising. Down to the Island for them. Snatching free rides
on the scenic railway, no doubt, and keeping their eyes peeled for boy
friends they had never met. Some of them would infest chop-suey joints
and flutter about to the tune of an automatic piano. Others would just
hang round soda shops and giggle and wait for something to happen. But
the fact remained, the girls would be pleasure-bent--sex-driven, alert,
seeking--they wouldn't go home. Lamb could hardly blame them. He wasn't
going home, either. He was going to swoop around and pity the slaves in
the office buildings below. He was--

"Oh, Hell!" he broke in on his thoughts. "This isn't getting me anywhere.
Must have food. I'll take a chance and try it."

He coasted down from his high place and landed in a narrow
street before the doors of a restaurant in which he had usually taken
his luncheon. The restaurant at that hour was crowded, but the smell of
food and the hospitable clatter of plates were irresistible to Mr. Lamb
in his famished condition.

"Well, here goes," he said to himself as he waited his opportunity and
sidled unobtrusively into the restaurant.

Mr. Lamb's unusually sharp eyes picked out a table at which one
man was sitting. This gentleman's head was completely hidden behind his
newspaper, and on the opposite side of the paper, between it and Mr.
Lamb reposed a plate of chicken and French-fried potatoes. The waiters
were in a fever of activity. Everyone was in one way or another
occupied with food. The presence of the seagull passed unnoticed. The
sight of the French-fried potatoes was too much for Mr. Lamb. Being a
bird himself he decided that it would be rather indelicate to partake
of the chicken. However, the potatoes would suffice. With the utmost
caution he mounted the chair opposite the reading gentleman and,
protruding a stealthy neck, fastened upon one of the potatoes. This
swiftly disappeared. Once more his competent beak shot forth and
another potato was done in.

By timing his forays judiciously, Mr. Lamb was getting along
quite nicely--making a meal for himself. The table was a secluded one,
and was partly concealed by a railing. But all good things must come to
an ending, and Mr. Lamb's luncheon was rudely interrupted. The man
lowered his paper and looked with some surprise upon the seagull. The
seagull froze in the chair, a portion of potato still protruding from
its beak. The bird returned the man's stare unwinkingly. This man, Lamb
decided, was a mild man. There should not be much trouble. Of course,
there would be some. No matter what happened it would be impracticable
to try to deprive him of the potatoes he had already eaten. The
gentleman neatly arrested the progress of a hurtling waiter.

"I say," he said, looking thoughtfully at the waiter. "Don't
you cook your food any more? Am I expected to swallow that thing
feathers and all?"

The waiter, regarding the motionless bird, almost dropped the tray.

"I don't know how it happened, sir," he said. "It never did before."

"There's always a first time for everything," continued the
gentleman patiently. "And by the way, you seem to be stuffing it from
the wrong end."

"That gull's been stuffing hisself," replied the waiter, and,
quickly putting down his tray, seized upon Mr. Lamb, who just managed
to gulp down the remainder of the potato before he was carried from the
restaurant.

"Be gentle with him," admonished the gentleman. "That bird is rather an
innovation in the line of gulls."

Mr. Lamb sent him a parting look of gratitude.

"Well," he said to himself philosophically, as he was cast into
the street, "this is the first time I've been given the bums' rush
since the halcyon days of Jack's."

He arranged his feathers and watched some pigeons picking
something on the street corner. His first instinct was to swoop down on
them and appropriate their food. Then he thought better of it.

"I haven't come to that," he decided. "Damn if I'll bully pigeons yet."

A brilliant idea was shaping itself in his mind. He knew of a
seafaring caf on the river front that rejoiced in a number of stuffed
birds. He had always considered them as rather dusty and repellent
decorations, but somehow they seemed a part of the place. If he could
only succeed in insinuating himself into this caf he might be able to
pass himself off as one of thestuffed birds and thus pick up some
choice bits. The place as he remembered it still sported a free-lunch
counter. Prohibition had left it undisturbed.

Mr. Lamb put his plan into action. It was not difficult,
because most of the occupants were standing at the bar with their backs
to the free-lunch counter. This consisted of a huge buffet with a long,
low shelf, upon which were displayed various ornaments which the
proprietor seemed to feel were essential to the sthetic contentment of
his guests. Lamb saw a boat in a bottle, a framed flag done in silk,
some particularly ghastly part of a fish, and a neat little group of
extremely unlife-like glass flowers.

Awaiting his chance, Lamb sprang lightly to the shelf among
this weird collection and immediately poised his wings. Directly facing
him over the bar was a stuffed owl, and out of the corner of his eyes
he could see a moth-eaten-looking hawk. He studied the technique of
these two birds carefully. There were several others in the room, but
he could not bring them into his range of vision without turning his
head, which was thrust slightly down and forward over a dish of dried
herring. This in his present state appealed to him greatly.

"I hate bolting down food," he thought, "but this is no time nor place to
observe the niceties of table manners."

With a lightning-like dart of his head he snatched up one of the
herrings and, cramming it into his mouth, once more became a stuffed
bird. Only a slight tremor around the throat gave evidence of the
activity that was going on within him.

Mr. Lamb made three more successful snatches before an
interruption occurred. The interruption took the form of a stout
gentleman with thick horn-rimmed glasses. Detaching himself from the
bar, this individual lurched sleepily over to the lunch counter and
leaned against it. He sampled a herring, then half turned to the bar
the better to observe his friends.

"This bloated man is likely to camp here all day," thought Mr.
Lamb dejectedly. " And if his friends come over and get into action
they'll clean the place out."

Slowly moving his head as close as possible to the plate, he
made a short, swift snatch. The herring was his, but the man had
noticed something. He turned and looked hard at the gull, then
transferred his eyes to the plate. Removing his glasses, he polished
them deliberately, and once more, inspected the gull. As he walked over
to the bar he stopped suddenly and looked back. Mr. Lamb was prepared
for the move. He looked fixedly back at the man, and just before he
turned away Lamb slowly closed one eye. The man stopped in his tracks,
swayed back to the gull and, getting his face very dose to it, studied
the bird for a full minute.

"Well, I give up," he muttered at last. "It must be the grog, but I didn't
think I was as drunk as all that."

He hurried back to the bar and called for a double brandy. With this
comfortably inside him, he returned once more to the gull.

It was unfortunate for the complete success of Mr. Lamb's
luncheon that he was discovered in the act of consuming the largest
herring of them all. He could not possibly hope to get the entire fish
into his mouth.

Realising the fuddled condition of the man, Lamb had decided
that he would retain no clear impression of what he saw. Therefore he
leisurely finished off the fish before the man's bulging eyes, and
resumed his inanimate position. The drunkard clutched the edge of the
buffet and held on.

"Tell me," he demanded thickly. " Are you a stuffed bird or not? For God's
sake be one or the other or I'll go potty."

Mr. Lamb returned the man's pleading gaze with a cold, dead eye.
Only one herring remained on the plate, and Mr. Lamb had his heart set
on that. He was determined that the inebriate should not have it.
Watching the gull closely, the man moved his hand slowly toward the
last herring. Lamb allowed him to pick it up, then shot out his beak
and tore it from his fingers.

"That settles it," said the man aloud, stepping hastily back
from the buffet. "When stuffed birds begin to snatch food from
customers' hands, I'm through."

He lifted up his voice and demanded the immediate presence of
the proprietor. That worthy party, bearing a mug of beer, joined him.

"What's wrong here?" he asked good-naturedly. "Not enough food?"

Still clinging to the buffet the man pointed a none too steady finger at
the gull.

"Is that a stuffed bird?" he demanded. "Because if it is it must have been
stuffed alive."

"Why, damn my eyes," said the proprietor, looking intently at
the gull. "It must be a stuffed bird, although I don't rightly remember
this one."

He paused and thought for a moment, then his face cleared. His
mind insisted on explaining the presence of that bird. Unconsciously
his imagination helped him.

"I remember now," he said. "We had a sort of a blow-out last
week, and one of the boys must have brought him in. That's it. That's
just how it got here."

The other man looked at the proprietor with a pitying smile.

"Did you ever hear of a stuffed bird polishing off a plate of fish and
fighting for the last one?"

"Did that bird do that?" asked the proprietor.

"That and more," declared the other. "The damn thing had the nerve to
wink at me."

This last statement settled the proprietor's doubts. His
customer was seeing things. That was all there was to it. He took the
man by the arm and attempted to lead him away.

"Come on over," he said coaxingly. "I'll stand the drinks. After that you'd
better go home."

This irritated the other considerably. He reached up and,
seizing the gull by the feet, carried him to the bar. Mr. Lamb
stiffened his body and awaited developments. He caught an inverted view
of a cuspidor and a floor covered with sawdust before he was roughly
hauled aloft.

"Gentlemen, I ask you," cried the stout man. "Is that a stuffed bird?"

Mr. Lamb had passed from hand to hand along the bar. He was
minutely examined. His feathers were parted and skin inspected. In the
course of his journey up and down the bar his head was dangled
conveniently over several glasses of beer from which he drank with
avidity, the herring having made him thirsty.

"Of course it's a stuffed bird," one of the men said at last.
"What do you think it is? No live bird would let himself be handled
like this without putting up a hell of a squawk."

"Jim's right," put in another voice. "Sure it's a stuffed bird."

"What do you mean, stuffed?" asked a sceptical individual. "Look at the
bird's skin. It's altogether too fresh to be stuffed."

Lamb's skin was again examined, and prodding fingers were thrust
into various parts of his body. The wear and tear was beginning to tell
on him.

"This is no go," he said to himself. "Those drunkards will make a wreck
out of me."

"Well, put him down and let's have a drink on it," a reasonable
voice suggested. "What do we care whether he's stuffed or unstuffed?
It's all the same to me."

Lamb was placed at the end of the bar and allowed to get his breath.
The gentlemen returned to their drinking.

"I earned that luncheon," he said to himself, thirstily watching
the glasses. "I'd better be shoving off now before they're at me
again."

He kept his eye fixed on the original cause of the
investigation and, when that tippler's head was tilted back, leaped
upon it and fastened his claws in the thick hair. Flapping his wings
violently, Lamb strained his throat in a piercing cry and pulled with
all his might. The man's cry was as piercing as the bird's. He
staggered across the room and crashed to the sawdust, leaving in Mr.
Lamb's claws several tufts of hair. Thoroughly interested now, Mr. Lamb
swept down the bar, overturning glasses in his flight. Most of the
investigation committee had taken refuge behind chairs and tables. With
a final scream of triumph Lamb circled the room and made his exit
through a conveniently open window.

"What did I say?" demanded the prostrate man in an injured voice. "I told
you it wasn't a stuffed bird."

"Well, what in hell was it?" someone asked. "It wasn't a regular seagull.
No normal bird has sense enough to act stuffed."

"I'm glad we all saw it," said a third, "or I'd be feeling awful now."

The gentlemen emerged from their various places of shelter, and returning
to the bar, looked up at the owl suspiciously.

Lamb, dropping the hair in some innocent bystander's face, flew
out over the harbour and settled himself on a wave. Here he was
presently joined by a venerable-looking seagull who, without any form
of salutation, plopped himself down beside him. Lamb regarded him
respectfully as a gull much older than himself.

"How do you do," offered Lamb.

"What?" almost snarled the ancient.

"What?" repeated Lamb blankly.

"Yes," scolded the other. "How do I do what?"

"Oh, nothing!" replied Lamb. "I was just saying 'Hello.'"

"You weren't saying 'Hello,'" the old gull snapped. "If you'd
said 'Hello,' I'd have heard 'Hello.' You asked me how I done. Don't
think I'm deaf."

"Did," corrected Mr. Lamb.

"See!" cried the gull. "You're wrong again. I always use done."

"Then you always say it wrong," said Lamb, his irritation
getting the better of him. "You're an insufferable old fool, and you
don't know you're alive."

"There you go," retorted the other. "You're always wrong. If I wasn't
alive I wouldn't be here."

"And I wouldn't miss you," replied Lamb.

"The sea is large," the old gull suggested. "Why don't you hop off?"

"I was here first," said Lamb.

"I'm always first wherever I am," his disagreeable companion
announced. "And, besides, you've drifted half a mile since you lit on
the water, so you're not the first because you're not there any longer,
and I--"

"Oh, for God's sake," interrupted Lamb, "you win. Have it your own way."

"Of course I win," said the gull complacently. "I always win. I
can argue you down on anything. Say something and I'll bet you're
wrong."

Mr. Lamb made no reply. He abandoned the conversation as
hopeless. Besides, he did not care for the old gull's rasping voice.
The sea was rough at this spot, and Lamb was beginning to feel far from
well. The choppy motion of the waves was seriously disturbing the
herring. He looked over to see how his companion was standing it. The
old bird was stolidly bobbing up and down apparently lost in some
exasperating line of thought.

"Do you ever get seasick?" Mr. Lamb ventured.

The gull looked up irascibly.

"Put it properly," he rasped. "If you mean, do I ever get sick
from or because of the sea, my answer is no, certainly not. On the
other hand, if you are trying to ask, do I ever get sick of the sea,
then that's altogether different."

He paused and looked broodingly at the sky.

"I'm fed up with the sea," he continued. "I'd like to retire and
settle down. Build a nice little nest somewhere--nothing elaborate, you
understand--and take life easy. I've been following the sea all my life,
and now I'm about through with it I'd like to pass my few remaining
years on shore. It's a dog's life for a gull."

"Why don't you retire?" asked Mr. Lamb. He was almost sorry for the
old bird.

"Got to get my living, gotten I?" snapped the other.

"Haven't I," Mr. Lamb suggested mildly.

The old gull made an unpleasantly sarcastic noise.

"You're starting in again, I see," he observed, with a hint of a
threat in his voice. "I said 'gotten I,' and I mean 'gotten I.' No good
trying to trip me up, you know."

Mr. Lamb once more relapsed into silence. There was nothing to
be gained by arguing with this opinionated old bore. Time passed and
the sun began to consider the Jersey hills. It had had a full day
making the city sweat. Now it was time to close up shop. The old gull
stirred and looked at Mr. Lamb.

"Want to go inshore and eat fertiliser?" he asked.

Mr. Lamb shuddered and clung to the herring.

"Thank you, no," he replied when he had a little mastered his nausea.
"I've already dined."

"It's swell chow," said the old bird, "but suit yourself. More fertiliser
for me. I love it."

He clapped his beak together with repulsive anticipation.

"Well, we'll probably run into each other sometime," he
continued. " A big liner goes out to-morrow. Lots of first-class
garbage. Probably see you with the mob. So long."

He rose from the water and streamed away inland. Lamb watched him out
of sight.

"What an uncouth old devil," he mused.

That night when Sandra was undressing for bed she looked up from her garters
and saw a large gull sitting on her window-sill.

"You low-down old loafer," she said, deliberately pulling down the shade.
"And I was actually feeling sorry for you."

A loud, ribald squawk clattered in the air, but when she went to
the window the gull was gone. She sat for a long time that night
looking into the darkness.



CHAPTER XII
MR. BILLINGS REMOVES HIS CLOTHES


THE next day Mr. Lamb put to sea. It was entirely unexpected. One of those
unplanned excursions that turn out so excellently.

He had been hanging about the three-mile limit all day, idly
sniffing empty bottles and recalling his vision of Sandra; when along
toward three o'clock a big liner came stepping swiftly on her way to
Europe.

Mr. Lamb had never crossed. It was one of those things one
promises oneself and keeps on promising until the tomb puts an end to
the hoary illusion. He was fond of ships. He felt that he could do well
on a ship. The only thing wrong with Europe was that his wife had been
there. He was not so fond of Europe for this. It should have been out
when she called.

He tagged along with a motley throng of gulls in the wake of
the ship. His companions were greedy for garbage. He most disliked
their squawks of disappointment and satisfaction. One little gull who,
in spite of her frantic efforts, was getting almost nothing, he helped
out. She appreciated the half-filled banana peel hugely, but
immediately began making improper advances, and Lamb had the time of
his life convincing her of his chastity. It was all new to her. She
returned to the garbage a much puzzled bird. She was more hurt than
annoyed.

Then Lamb boarded the ship. He was going to see for himself.
With a stealth that was now well developed he slipped into the scuppers
of the main deck and made his way forward to the smoking-room. From his
point of vantage there were many legs--forests of legs. He averaged them
up on his way and decided they were far from bad. Good, satisfactory
legs, well-hosed and frankly displayed for all the world to admire. He
thought of slave markets where women were sold nude, and he wondered
why the pictures always showed them cringing. Why, just show these
women a slave market, and they would be racing to see who could strip
first. Lamb was not a nice man. He did not think in nice ways. Mrs.
Lamb had found that out.

His reception in the smoking-room was a great deal better than
he had either hoped for or expected. The minute he thrust his serious,
bespectacled head into the door a man in the corner began to laugh
quietly to himself. From then on Lamb was a made gull so far as the
smoking-room was concerned. He was accepted as one of the boys.

It all started from the man in the corner feeding him with
bread soaked in wine. From then on things went from bad to worse. He
was borrowed by various tables and urged to indulge. That is hardly
correct. Lamb needed no urging. When a pretty woman held him in her
arms and temptingly offered him a sip from her own cocktail he saw no
reason to make a display of himself. He sipped and continued sipping.
After dinner he did things with liqueurs. Exactly what he did with them
he never quite remembered. However, a certain highball lingered long in
his mind...that highball and a slanting deck, then an open door and a
bed. Life became a comfortable hiatus.

When he next visited consciousness he was pecking irritably at
a soft but firm object that was seriously disturbing his slumber.
Several times beneath his pecking the object moved convulsively. Then
suddenly the object was removed and the lights flashed on. When the
coverings were pulled back, Lamb found himself frowning up into the
face of a seriously perturbed young lady auspiciously attired. Now it
so happened that this young lady had mastered only one cry of alarm
that she considered suitable for ship board. This cry she made all
haste to utter.

Rushing from the room, she shouted at the top of her extremely
robust lungs a warning that is feared and heeded on all the seven seas.

"Man overboard!" she announced with an earnestness that lent conviction.
"Man overboard!"

The cry was automatically caught up by the stewards and passed forward
to the bridge.

"Where?" demanded an officer, seizing the distracted young lady by a
well-bared arm.

"Don't know," she half sobbed, "but I think it's in my bed. It bit me."

Too late now. The ship lost headway, then went into reverse.
Doors popped open, and half-clad figures rushed to the decks, all of
them cheerfully shouting something about a man being overboard. The
scene was as giddy as a college rush.

During this refreshing interlude Mr. Lamb found an opportunity
to remove himself to another stateroom, and to make sure there would be
no misunderstandingthis time he deliberately perched himself on the
back of a chair.

"Well, that's doing pretty well for a mere seagull," he thought
dreamily as he took up his sleep at the point where it had been
disturbed.

Upon the bridge the skipper, when he learned the true state of
affairs, was credited by his officers for inventing an entirely new
language--something more concretely awful than they had ever heard
before.

When the occupant of the stateroom Mr. Lamb had selected for
the remainder of the night returned he glanced at the chair and averted
his eyes. Then he rang for the steward.

"Steward," he asked when the man had arrived, "does there seem to be a
bird on that chair in the corner?"

"There is, sir," replied the steward. " It's a seagull."

"Is the bird alive or dead?" continued the man.

The steward approached Mr. Lamb and scrutinised him closely. "He
seems to be more asleep, sir," said the steward. "I'll chuck him right
out."

"No," said the man. "No, steward. Let the damn fool sleep. I
merely wanted to find out if we saw the same thing. I know exactly how
he feels."

The steward withdrew, and the man, after a sympathetic survey
of the gull, quietly prepared for sleep. He omitted dropping his shoes
that night--a sleeping gull should not be aroused.

Mr. Lamb woke up a wreck. He had a confused memory of confusion.
Impossible to put things together. He was sure, however, that the
skipper did not want him on the ship. As a matter of fact,
when the skipper had received a fuller report of various happenings
aboard his ship he had said, "Find the ----, ---- gull and wring
its ----, ---- neck." Instinctively Mr. Lamb knew that the skipper
would be just snooty enough to issue an order like that. Lamb had
heard about skippers.

Therefore, with a parting look of interest at his cabin-mate,
he hopped to an open porthole and abandoned ship. As he wheeled high in
the heavens he saw smoke on the sky-line. Soon he was able to make out
the lines of a ship heading in the opposite direction--New York bound.

"I guess I'll have to hitch-hike it," he decided, stumbling
over an air pocket and almost losing his balance. "In my condition I
could never make port on wing."

Before he finally left, however, he flew back to his own ship
and secretively introduced himself into the skipper's quarters, where
he succeeded in arousing the weary man by patiently toying with his
hair. Then at a safe distance, close to a porthole, the gull arranged
himself and listened while the skipper made all the noise. Mr. Lamb
wished he had a stenographer present to take down many of the wonderful
words he heard. The skipper went into his parentage, dwelt on various
irregularities of birth, and gave specific evidence showing that Lamb
was a nameless, immoral scavenger of the sea, the scum of all feathered
things. Then Mr. Lamb took up the burden of the conversation and cursed
the skipper vilely, but impartially, as only a seagull can.

The air was filled with a wild clattering sound. The skipper
listened for a while to the cursing gull with truly professional
interest, then re-lost his temper. There were a great number of bells
in his room. The skipper rang them all. When practically the entire
crew had been assembled the skipper gave it explicit instructions just
what to do with the gull. To have done all the things the skipper
commanded would have required a lot of gulls--one gull could never have
lasted. Mr. Lamb waited politely until the man had exhausted his supply
of unpleasant suggestions, then poising himself in the porthole,
rebuked him roundly for his lack of self-control. The crew had never
heard the skipper so severely addressed. It was panic-stricken. It
advanced on the cursing bird with extended hands. Lamb watched the
determined men with an ironical eye, then dropped out of sight forever.
After putting his crew on half-rations, the skipper cleared his cabin
and returned to his bed, where he did not sleep.

When Lamb dropped down on the inbound vessel he dropped in a
place where he would be free from intrusion, and there remained
recuperating until the ship had passed the Battery. Then he sought the
quiet waters of the Upper Hudson and drowsed peacefully round a
battered old hulk until the lights began to appear in the windows of
the apartment houses looming up high on the banks above him.

About five o'clock in the morning Mr. Lamb made up his mind
that he was thoroughly sick of being a seagull. He had seen enough and
done enough. If the little russet man insisted on his being things,
Lamb wanted to be something else. He flew down Wall Street and turned
into Broad Street. The financial district was deserted. Remarking that
one of the windows of his office had been left open, he skimmed through
it and sought his own private room. Everything was clean and in order.
A large pile of slit envelopes was neatly stacked in the unfinished
business basket. Perching himself on the edge of his desk, he closed
his eyes to think and continued right through to sleep.

Time did not stay for Lamb's slumbers. It continued evenly
about its business. The office staff made its appearance, and Billings,
the treasurer, quietly entered Mr. Lamb's room. The old gentleman
halted in the doorway and considered the sleeping gull long and
thoughtfully. It was not his nature to be surprised. The moment he saw
the gull his mind automatically leaped the events leading to its
presence and occupied itself with devising schemes best fitted to
relieve the office of its uninvited guest. Gulls did not buy bonds.
Therefore gulls had no place in the scheme of things. It was all plain
sailing to Billings.

He closed the door gently and returned to his desk the better
to perfect his plans. This was a situation he had better handle
himself. The ejection of a seagull from the chief's private office
would be too much of a treat for the lamentably frivolous members of
the staff. He selected a long basket designed to hold ticker tape and
once more entered Mr. Lamb's office, closing the door behind him. He
hoped the gull was still sleeping.

But the gull was not still sleeping. The gull was not there at
all. In its place squatted Mr. Lamb on the extreme edge of his desk.
Mr. Lamb was clad only in pyjamas, and to Mr. Billings this fact was
more to be regretted than the existence of Russia and the popularity of
Al Smith. Those phenomena were inexplicable, but the conduct of his
chief would have to be explained, and Billings greatly doubted if a
satisfactory explanation could be found. He fervently thanked his God
that there was no smell of liquor in the air. Mr. Lamb must have left
the bottle outside. He had the sense at least to do that.

Billings was about to close the door and lock it, feeling it
wiser to let his chief finish his sleep, when Mr. Lamb woke up and
began to flap his arms against his sides in a singularly birdlike
manner. Billings, remembering the gull, gasped as a shocking suspicion
entered his mind. The flapping was the cause of more trouble. Mr. Lamb
lost his balance and fell with a crash to the floor. The fall and the
sight of the familiar face of his treasurer were sufficient to give Mr.
Lamb a comprehensive realisation of his predicament. He looked down at
his pyjamas, then smiled cordially up at Billings.

"Morning, Billings," he said. "Would you mind taking off your clothes.
I have an extremely important engagement."

For only a moment did Billings hesitate, then he slowly began to
strip. It was up to him to see that Mr. Lamb kept that engagement. A
cool million might hang in the balance. Who could tell?

At this intimate juncture Miss Helen Wilson, bearing the
morning letters, came swiftly into the office and, to the relief of
both gentlemen, went swiftly out again.

The expression on her face was enough to collect an interested group.

"The boss is in there in pyjamas," she quietly told the girls, "and
Billings is undressing."

"My Gord!" breathed a snappy-looking stenographer. "What do we all
have to do, go to bed?"

A few minutes later Mr. Lamb, clad in a suit several sizes too
small for him, came smilingly from his office and greeted his
demoralised staff as if nothing unusual had occurred. And a few minutes
after his departure Mr. Billings summoned his assistant to him and
shortly appeared wearing a suit several sizes too large for him. With
an air of deep preoccupation he flopped across the main office, then
flopped from view behind the protection of his own door.

What steps the assistant took to cover his nakedness are not
known. It is to be assumed that Mr. Billings did not permit him to go
home in Mr. Lamb's pyjamas.

When Lamb presented himself at his home his arrival created a
small stir. Even Thomas was quietly edified. Mrs. Lamb was not amused.

"That's rather a dashing little ensemble you're wearing,
major," Hebe observed, looking up from her plate. " Do you feel that we
need to be diverted?"

"I sort of fancy it myself," said Lamb, taking his place at the
head of the table. "It's Philadelphia's latest. Do you like it, Sapho?"

"Where have you been?" asked Sapho. "And what am I to understand by
these mysterious disappearances?"

"Flying," said Mr. Lamb enigmatically; then as if it were an
afterthought he asked: "Would it be quite convenient for me to retire
to my room after luncheon? I want to save this suit for Sunday."

Mrs. Lamb refrained from asking further inconvenient questions. Her husband
ate more than usual.



CHAPTER XIII
A LAPFUL OF SANDY


"WHY must I be carried into the city?" Mr. Lamb complained,
as his daughter spread disorder among the traffic in upper
New York. "I just came from that wallow of vice and corruption."

"I'm going to spend money, I told you," his daughter patiently
explained, "and I want you to watch how I do it. You see, major, at any
moment now I might get married or something very closely related to
getting married. From now on I've got to be always on the alert."

"There's an infinity of space between getting married and
something very closely related to getting married," Mr. Lamb mildly
observed. "Then of course there remains the relatively unimportant
question of the morality of the thing."

"There you have me," replied Hebe. "I've always been backward
on morals, but I do know how to dress appropriately for any given
occasion, and that's more than half the battle."

"You may be right," her father agreed. " My own morals are
undergoing a severe strain at present. They seem to be almost
undermined, although thus far I am still intact. As a seagull I slept
with a lady, but not very comfortably nor very long. I made an
impression at that. It is a question in my mind if that lady ever
sleeps again. She will certainly never sleep with a seagull."

Hebe parked the car in a side street and, taking her father's
arm, directed his steps to a magnificent shop just off Fifth Avenue.

"This place is obviously not designed to improve one's morals,"
Mr. Lamb remarked as he looked about him. "I can hardly understand how
a woman with such remarkable contraptions on underneath can refrain
from discarding her outer garments and displaying herself demi-nude."

"All women cherish or have cherished that pious desire," Hebe
replied wisely. "Your mind operates too crudely to understand the finer
feelings of women. Anyway, here comes Madam."

Madam having been introduced to Hebe's father and the young
lady's wishes having been made known in a low voice, the couple were
ushered into a private room and offered ridiculously inadequate gilt
chairs.

"If you weren't my daughter," said Mr. Lamb, "I'd be leaving at
just this point. What goes on here? The presence of that sofa over
there is not reassuring. Am I expected to ring for drinks?"

"I wouldn't have a mind like yours for the world," his daughter told him.
"It's so utterly evil--so bad."

"Do you mean to sit there and tell me--," Mr. Lamb began, but he never
finished the sentence.

The door opened and a girl clad in what Lamb considered next to
nothing came slithering and swaying into the room. The girl was Sandra
...impersonal, aloof, and unsmiling. Her eyes glittered dangerously,
Mr. Lamb thought, when they occasionally met his.

"Get an eyeful, you old roue," she gritted as she swept close to his chair.

Mr. Lamb started back.

"Hebe," he said, " I think I'd better be going. My morals as I have already
told you are almost under-mined."

"Is it not chic?" Madam demanded. "Is it not _ravissement?_"

While Hebe was agreeing with Madam that the garment was both chic
and _ravissement_ Sandra once more glided past Mr. Lamb.

"Nasty," she muttered. "Nasty old man."

Mr. Lamb leaned close to his daughter and actually brought himself
to whisper, so great was his indignation.

"She just called me a nasty old man," he told her. "You staged this
party--not I."

Hebe patted her father's arm with a soothing little hand.

"Don't mind her," she replied in a low voice. "You are nasty, but you're
not so very old."

"Well, I'll be damned," breathed Mr. Lamb, and fastened his eyes on the
exact centre of the rug.

"What do you think, Mr. Lamb?" asked Madam, fearing that the
source of revenue might be growing bored. "Would not your daughter wear
well in that?

"What?" said Mr. Lamb with a slight start. "Wear well? Oh yes,
of course. She'd wear splendidly if she didn't wear out altogether."

"Your father is droll," laughed Madam. "Come, I have something
to show--," and taking Hebe by the arm, she led the girl from the room.

_"Un moment, monsieur,"_ drifted back to him through the closing door.

Then things began to happen. When the click of the latch assured
Sandra that she was alone in the room with Mr. Lamb, she took instant
advantage of their privacy. With one spring she was on his lap, her
arms twined tightly round his head. To Mr. Lamb it seemed that Sandra's
unexpected demonstration was more in the nature of an assault than an
expression of tender emotions. Suppose he should be discovered in this
compromising position? Lamb grew frantic.

"Get up," he mouthed, his vowels being muffled by a quantity of ineffectual
lace. "Get up at once--this instant!"

Then Madam and Hebe made their appearance. Madam uttered a
shocked cry and covered her eyes, but Hebe studied the situation with
her usual detached interest.

Sandra wriggled off the knees and took refuge behind Madam.

"It was a veritable assault, Madam," she chattered with every
appearance of terror. "The moment you left the room that nasty old man
on the chair looked at me and said, "I'm going to get you, and with
that I was seized--you saw."

She embellished this lying statement with a volley of extremely
convincing sobs and shudders. Madam put her arms round the girl and did
her best to quiet her maidenly alarm.

"Let me explain," Lamb began, but Hebe interrupted.

"Madam," said she, "I think I'll take several sets of that small thing
she's wearing."

Madam was delighted. She even regarded Mr. Lamb with sympathetic eyes.

Mr. Lamb walked out of the shop and allowed Hebe to guide his faltering
steps at random.

Hebe knew of a place and thither she led her father. For the
remainder of the afternoon she dutifully fed him highballs until his
belief in the ultimate wisdom of God was partially restored. He was
even able to smile ruefully over the memory of Sandra's assault.

At a late hour that night he was still drinking highballs and
running up a commendable cheque at a night club for the benefit of
Sandra, his daughter and Melville Long. Mr. Lamb had danced with more
diligence than grace. Now, however, he was past dancing. In fact, if
the truth must be known, Mr. Lamb was rapidly disappearing, the top of
his head being level with the tablecloth, and in a few minutes even the
little of him with which he saw fit to grace the table was withdrawn
from public view.

Observing the reluctance of her father to remain in an erect
position, Hebe called the waiter and asked for the cheque. Presently he
returned with a beaming face in anticipation of a heavy tip, but as he
was on the point of proffering the final reckoning he suddenly became
transfixed in his tracks, his eyes riveted themselves on the floor, and
the beam slowly melted from his face, giving place to an expression
decidedly unnerving to behold. The party looked down and saw what the
waiter saw--a long, large, tawny tail protruding from under the table.
The waiter felt sure that even to look at such a thing was not included
in his salary. He tiptoed away carrying the cheque with him. Let more
intrepid spirits collect it if they could. His duty lay with his
family.

The two girls looked at the one remaining man, who himself was not so crisp.

"What's on the other end of it?" asked Sandra. Hebe bent over and thoughtfully
contemplated the tail.

"Search me," she said at last, "I don't rightly remember ever having had any
dealings with a tail like that before."

"Perhaps it's an altogether new and better animal," Mr. Long suggested
enterprisingly.

He pulled a flask from his hip pocket and passed it to the ladies. The
situation called for a drink.

"That," said Hebe, sweeping the back of her hand across her mouth, "endears
you to me for life."

At this moment Mr. Lamb decided to relieve the tension of the
situation. A long, sleek head with a pointed snout appeared above the
table, slid onto the rumpled cloth and looked moistly at the three
young people. In the due course of time the head was followed by a
body, which slumped back awkwardly in its chair.

"I don't want to be hasty," said Hebe, "but roughly speaking, I
think my father and our host leans toward kangaroo. What will we use
for money now that he has gone?"

Once more Mr. Long was enterprising.

"Mightn't he have a pouch?" he asked. "I seem to remember something
about kangaroos and pouches."

The kangaroo laughed foolishly and beat on the table with his
short but powerful forelegs. Hebe cast her lover a smile of infinite
commiseration.

"For one I'd prefer not to look for it," she remarked. "You see, darling,
he's not that sort of a kangaroo."

"I beg your pardon," said Mr. Long. "It was merely a suggestion."

"Rather an indelicate one," observed the girl.

For some minutes Sandra had been looking with growing disgust at
the obviously inebriated kangaroo, who had been fatuously trying to
hold her hand.

"Now, I ask you," she demanded. "What are we going to do with
that? You just can't leave a kangaroo to shift for himself in a city
like this."

"He'd be safe as far as women are concerned," observed Melville Long,
surpassing himself in optimism.

The kangaroo received this remark with a giggle of appreciation.

"I don't know," said Hebe. "He's not such a bad-looking kangaroo."

"He's a terrible-looking kangaroo," declared Sandra. "Look at him there,
all slouched over. Why can't he sit up properly?"

Mr. Lamb favoured her with a scowl.

It seems unfortunate that at this stage of the conversation a
gentleman in executing an ambitious dance step should have descended
heavily on Mr. Lamb's tail. It seems doubly unfortunate that Mr. Lamb
had not sufficient restraint to withhold the vicious uppercut he
immediately delivered upon the point of that gentleman's chin. From
that time on everything seemed increasingly unfortunate.

The dancer retaliated with a left hook to Mr. Lamb's jaw, and
Sandra, as if guided by an infallible sense of balance, sprang upon the
man's partner and partially disrobed her.

"Touch a hair of his head," she shouted, "and I'll strip you clean."

Several ladies rushed to the assistance of the assaulted woman,
and this quite naturally brought Hebe into the fray. One thing led to
another, and presently Melville Long found himself engaged in biting
the ear of a perfect stranger while kicking another diligently in the
stomach. On all sides it was an earnest, hard-breathing little
engagement that did not lose one whit of interest because of the fact
that only a few of its participants had the vaguest idea of what it was
all about.

In the meantime the kangaroo, highly excited by all that was
going on, was leaping from table to table and impartially smiting both
friend and foe whenever the occasion offered.

The room was not quiet nor the scene restful. Several men, as
if preferring not to trust the evidence of their eyes, were sitting
motionless at their tables, their heads buried in their arms. When Mr.
Lamb's head managed to get itself through a spare drum, retaining the
frame round his neck, it seemed high time to think about going home.

Hebe, Sandra, and a shockingly tattered Mr. Long cut a path through the
whirling mass and joined the kangaroo at the door.

"Cut and run!" cried Sandra. "The car's round the corner."

The four of them burst so compactly from the place that two
arriving policemen were heavily borne to the pavement. There they sat
and blew their whistles, then lurched in the direction of the flying
wedge. They were trailed by a waiter wildly waving a cheque.

"Off again," thought Lamb to himself, as he leaped along beside
Sandra. "My universe of late seems to be in a disconcertingly unsettled
condition."

As they swarmed into the automobile a motor cycle policeman
came into view and calmly took the number of the car, which by this
time was gathering speed, then with a satisfied grin, settled himself
down on his machine to show these people exactly where they got off.

At Columbus Circle another officer tried to hold them up when
they were forced to slow down in traffic, but a hairy arm shooting out
unexpectedly from the rear seat of the car, landed him in the gutter.

"What sort of a mob is that?" he wondered, vividly recalling
the strange-looking arm that had so bewilderingly altered his plans.

Melville Long was at the wheel, and Hebe was sitting beside
him. On the back seat Sandra was clinging to the kangaroo and laughing
softly at the festive appearance he made with the rim of the drum round
his neck.

When they were well out of the city the motor-cycle policeman,
who had not forgotten them for a moment, telephoned ahead to the next
fair-sized town and gave full particulars and an adequate description
of the merry little party. They were all laughing now, save Mr. Lamb,
who showed a strong inclination to doze off on Sandra's shoulder.
Melville Long's merriment was the greater because of the skilful manner
in which he believed he had eluded pursuit.

The flight came to an end at the railroad tracks of the next
town. The bars were down, and it was here that the reception committee
waited.

"Damn," said Melville Long under his breath asseveral dark
figures emerged from the shadows and manifested their presence in other
unpleasant ways.

"You big stiffs," said Hebe. "Why didn't you call out the army?"

"That's all they are," agreed Sandra unhesitatingly. "They're just great,
big, liver-footed stiffs--morons!"

"That talk ain't going to help you a bit," one of the officers warned the
ladies.

"Aw, shut up," said Mr. Long. "We're not asking you for a lesson in polite
conversation."

The officer was about to attend to the young man for this
remark, when a terrible, grinning face was suddenly thrust into his. He
started back with a cry and had to be supported by two of his brother
officers. But this was Mr. Lamb's last effort that night. He had no
recollection of being driven to a station-house and half carried to a
cell in which he was locked up in company with his prospective
son-in-law. The two girls, still busily insulting every uniform in
sight, were given a barred apartment of their own, where they sang and
jeered themselves to sleep.

When Judge Gibson arose next morning he made up his mind to
give all prisoners brought before him whom he could not sentence to
painful death, at least a life term at revolting labour. In this
cheerful frame of mind he repaired to his court and proceeded to spread
dread and dismay among the ranks of evil-doers. When Sandra, Hebe and
Melville Long were lined up against the rail he kept them waiting a
considerable time before he looked up from a paper he had been studying
with growing interest. When he did look up his expression was almost
happy. Here was something he could get thoroughly enraged about.
Convulsing his face into a small bunch he slowly considered in turn
each youthful face looking bravely up into his.

"Good morning," he said in a suspiciously pleasant voice. "Can you think of
anything you haven't done?"

"Rape," replied Sandra promptly.

"Arson and pillage," added Hebe.

"Treason," was the best that Long could achieve.

The judge was a little taken aback by the nature of the snappy
replies. Evidently these young people were not so soft as they looked.
He would have to deal with them astutely.

"Well, I have you down here for about everything else," he
continued, referring to the paper. "I'll select a few charges at random
just to give you an approximate idea of how very long you are going to
be with us."

He cleared his throat efficiently and carefully adjusted his glasses.

"A mention is made here of driving while under the influence of
spirituous liquor, of demolishing a restaurant and refusing to pay the
cheque, of assaulting, maiming, and wounding upwards of half a hundred
innocent persons, of speeding and violating every known traffic
regulation in the most flagrant and callous manner, of having in your
company and possession a dangerous wild beast, of attacking several
officers of the law, and of being in possession of a flask of whisky.
Your evening seems to have been industriously spent in disturbing the
world at large."

"I'll bet you love to read the weather reports that say 'Rain
and increasing cold,'" observed Sandra with her most disarming smile.

The judge was not annoyed. He looked at the girl a long time as if trying to
fix her image forever in his memory.

"Where you are going," he told her distinctly, "you won't have to worry about
the weather. It will be all overcast to you."

In spite of herself Sandra shuddered at this unemotional announcement.

"Your honour," put in one of the policemen. "They also used bad language and
called us a bunch of big stiffs."

The judge looked at the policeman with a shocked expression,
then turned his eyes to the prisoners. "How did you find that out?" he
asked.

"You can see for yourself, your honour," replied Hebe.

"I know," agreed the judge, "but we've been trying to hush it up. Don't go
giving us away every time you get run in."

The judge paused and once more considered the document.

"It refers here," he continued, with a new note of interest in
his voice, "to a dangerous wild beast. Where is this wild beast at
present, Donovan?"

"He's locked up," replied that worthy.

"Did you capture it last night?" asked the judge.

The four of us, your honour," said Donovan modestly. "Officers O'Boyle,
Burk--"

"Quite right," the judge interrupted. "Then I assume the beast was neither
dangerous nor wild."

"It gave us a terrible start, your honour," Donovan got in. "An awful sight
it was with the drum around its neck and all."

The judge looked up quickly. This was all news to him.

"It must have been dreadful," he remarked with elaborate
solicitude. "But what's this about a drum? It says nothing here about a
drum."

"Yes, sir, it was wearing a drum," said Donovan.

"And you say this drum was around the neck of this alleged wild
beast?" continued Judge Gibson. "What sort of wild beast does it happen
to be?"

"The doctor just came in on a case, sir, and claims it's a kingaroo,"
the officer replied.

"Kangaroo, Donovan," corrected the judge.

"Yes, your honour," Donovan continued, "but Sergeant Brophy says it ain't
a kingaroo, because kingaroos don't act that way."

"In what lies the eccentricity of this unknown wild beast's behaviour?"
demanded the judge, now thoroughly interested.

"Didn't get your honour," said Donovan.

"What's wrong with the thing?" snapped the judge, then turning
to his prisoners, added politely, "You'll pardon me, I hope, before I
put you away. I must get Donovan to tell me all about this kingaroo."

"Certainly, your honour, we'll pardon you if you will pardon us,"
replied Hebe.

"Very good," said the judge, with a ghastly grin. "You were going
to say, Donovan?"

"I hadn't intended saying anything," replied Donovan.

"Well, go right ahead and say it," urged the judge patiently. "I
think you can confide in us. What's wrong with this wild beast?"

"Well, your honour," replied the officer with every sign of
hesitancy. "The last I saw of the thing it was humming 'Me and My
Shadow,' and dancing around in its cell."

"What!" the judge almost shouted, leaning far over his desk;
then, sinking back, he added, "Don't say any more for a moment,
Donovan. I need to think."

The prisoners before him were leaning on the rail, their faces hidden
from view.

"I wish I could laugh," said the judge gloomily. "Never have I
been forced to listen to such an involved and successfully obscured
narrative."

He picked up a newspaper and read for several minutes,
occasionally stopping to look penetratingly at Donovan until that
intrepid limb of the law began to grow more than a little reflective.

"What did you say the name of that song was?" the judge asked at last.

"'Me and My Shadow,'" Donovan replied.

"Is it a pretty song?" continued the judge. "Do you know it."

"I couldn't sing it myself, your honour," said Donovan, fearing the judge's
next request, "but I know it when I hear it."

"I'll buy you a record, your honour," offered Sandy. "It's sweetly wistful
like so many of your clients."

"You won't be near any store," said the judge. "Oh," said Sandy, "that's
too bad!"

"Sounds like a criminal record," observed the judge. "' Me and
My Shadow'--shadow, you see. Good! Everyone gets 100 but Officer
Donovan."

The judge folded his papers with a snap and sat up abruptly.

"Enough of this," he said briskly. "Donovan, bring in that
singing kangaroo. Let's all have a look at it. Perhaps we'll be able to
agree on a name."

"He's not such a poisonous judge," murmured Hebe to Sandra.

"Not at all," said Sandra. "Quite a human being."

"Wait till you see what he does with us," Melville Long whispered behind
his hand, his optimism vanished.

The kangaroo was not entirely sober when Donovan, holding a
rope, the other end of which was secured around his neck, brought him
before the judge. The animal covered the ground with a peculiar gliding
motion that gave him the appearance of skating. He was still humming
under his breath in a preoccupied manner. Greeting his friends with a
casual wave of a relatively short foreleg, he bowed to the judge.

At this point several sleepy reporters came back to life and
began to ask each other questions. Here was a good story. They collared
an attendant and obtained full details. The few remaining spectators
also displayed signs of returning interest. The judge leaned forward
and listened intently, one hand held up for silence. A strange noise
was issuing from the kangaroo's lips. Observing the judge's strained
attitude the kangaroo obligingly increased the volume of his humming,
and the room was filled with what the kangaroo fondly believed to be a
song.

"You've a better ear for music than I have, Donovan," said the
judge, settling back in his chair. "Is he still harping on his
favourite song?"

"That's what he thinks he's doing," answered the officer. "It
ain't so bad, your honour, considering he's a poor, dumb, soulless
beast."

Mr. Lamb looked pensively at Donovan.

"Where's his drum?" asked the judge suddenly.

"He refused to come out of his cell until I'd taken it off for him,"
Donovan replied.

"Too bad," observed the judge. "I'd like to have seen that."
Then turning to Hebe, he asked, "Miss Lamb, where did you get this
singing kangaroo?"

"My uncle found him in the bush," said Hebe.

"What bush?" asked the judge. "Try to be specific."

"The Australian bush," replied Hebe. "He's been in our family since he
was a pup."

The judge continued to question the girl about the kangaroo
until Mr. Lamb grew bored. He was also becoming extremely sleepy. The
liquor was wearing off. Slowly he sank down and fell into a gentle
slumber. The judge looked over the edge of his desk.

"Donovan," he ordered, "wake that kangaroo up. Neither man nor beast
sleeps in this court."

A violent jerk on the noose brought the kangaroo erect like a
released spring. He made a side swipe at Donovan, but, luckily for that
officer, failed to land. Then, as if suddenly realising his
surroundings, he looked apologetically at the judge.

A strange feeling was taking possession of Mr. Lamb, a feeling
not entirely due to his over-indulgence. Some sort of chemical
revolution was taking place within him. He was unable to shake off his
drowsiness and confusion. As he drifted off to sleep again he had a
vague idea that the judge was asking Donovan whether the poor soulless
beast had been given a cup of coffee that morning.

A loud discussion in the back of the courtroom between two
heavy-faced, unhatted ladies stoutly defending the smirched reputations
of their respective husbands presently to be tried on a charge of
jointly attempting to put an end to each other's lurid careers, created
a momentary diversion. All eyes were turned in their direction, and by
the time the belligerent ladies had been voluminously ejected, another
diversion had arisen to mar the tranquillity of the judge's morning.
When he next peered at the kangaroo he found himself looking into the
dark eyes of a tall, fashionably clad gentleman of distinguished manner
and sober bearing.

"Hello!" exclaimed the judge in some surprise. "Where the devil did you
spring from?"

Mr. Lamb presented his card and explained his presence in the
court. Having learned indirectly about the escapade of these young
people, and being the father of one of them and an old friend of the
parents of the other two, he had hastened to help the judge to show
them the error of their ways.

"You are just in time to see the last of them, Mr. Lamb," judge
Gibson informed him. "And, by the way, how did you manage to get that
noose about your neck?"

Mr. Lamb's hand flew to the rope. Fora moment he appeared to be
crushed. His companion of the night gazed at him with dismayed eyes.
How could he he himself out of this? Then a bland smile touched Mr.
Lamb's lips as he looked up at the judge.

"I just found it lying there on the floor," said Mr. Lamb, "and I thought
I'd try it on."

"Are you in the habit of trying on nooses?" asked the judge.

Sandra was leaning against Mr. Lamb. Her face was crimson, and a handkerchief
was crammed in her mouth.

That's the most deflated lie I've ever attended," breathed Hebe.

"No," replied Mr. Lamb in reply to the judge's question. " It is not one of
my hobbies."

"I'm glad to hear it," the judge remarked. "One of the nooses might stay
put sometime."

Mr. Lamb laughed politely.

"Donovan," continued the judge, "where has that kangaroo gotten himself to?
Is he still sleeping or what's he think he's doing?"

When the judge's eye gathered in Donovan, he imagined the
officer was giving every appearance of shell shock. Donovan was staring
at Mr. Lamb with frightened, bewildered eyes.

"Why, that gentleman's the kangaroo he faltered. The rope ain't never
been out of my hand, your honour."

"No, Donovan," replied the judge. " Mr. Lamb is not a kangaroo
in spite of his eccentric conduct. You've tried to convince me of many
strange, unbelievable stories in the course of our relations, but I
refuse to be convinced that this gentleman is a kangaroo."

A hard light came into the judge's eyes, and he leaned far over his desk
again.

"Now, Donovan," he rasped. " You go out and find me that
kangaroo. Take some of your fellow-incompetents with you. Bring that
animal back to me. I want him to teach me that song."

"I beg your pardon, Judge Gibson," Mr. Lamb put in, "but I
think I can help the officer out. As I was coming in a kangaroo burst
from between two excited women, who were evidently being put out. The
creature almost knocked me over in his eagerness to go somewhere. He
turned to the left and jumped into a passing van heading away from the
city. That's the last I saw of him."

"Search for that van, Donovan," said the judge. " And don't
forget to beat every bush. He likes bushes. So far it seems you've made
a mess of the case. There's not a witness here in court to support a
number of your charges. I don't even see a plaintiff."

Donovan left with one last fascinated look at Mr. Lamb, who
immediately after retired with the judge to his private chamber. When
he returned he smiled encouragingly at the delinquents. The judge,
brushing his lips with a handkerchief, also smiled upon them.

"What your various parents are going to do to you will be
plenty," he said, happily. " You will come to wish I had put you in
prison for ever. I've just had Mr. Long on the wire, young man, and he
actually pleaded with me to sentence you for life. He said something
about being able to prove yourself in jail. In view of the approaching
unpleasantness I am letting you off with a suspended sentence. Get them
out of my sight, Mr. Lamb. They've taken up my entire morning--they and
that kangaroo."

Back in the automobile Lamb collapsed. Sandra nestled against him.

"I hope this will teach us all a lesson," he said piously. "It will all
come out in the papers."

"'Twill make erotic reading for Sapho," replied Hebe. "I think we had
better go away somewhere."

"I know I had," said Long moodily. "There'll be no living at home. I've
proved myself conclusively at last."

"Ruination?" suggested Hebe.

"We're ruinated enough as it is," said Long. Sandra's hand crept into
Mr. Lamb's.

"You're such a nice, long, lovely liar," she murmured.

Mr. Lamb was looking at her ear.

"That thing," he said, pinching it slightly, "was the start of all my
troubles."

"Kiss it," urged Sandra in a low voice.

Mr. Lamb looked coldly at the girl.



CHAPTER XIV
SAPHO TRIES TO MURDER A FISH


MR. LAMB had spoken conservatively. The reporters got it. The papers
printed it. Yards of it.

In spite of the vast multiplicity of detail, in spite of the
unscrupulous embellishments, the callous innuendoes, the gentlemen of
the press were still heavily befogged as to the actual facts of the
affair. Mr. Lamb appeared in print, but not in his true role of a
converted kangaroo.

One story in particular disturbed the overtaxed equanimity of
its central character. The author of the story in question had seen fit
to treat his subject facetiously, which when one comes to consider its
nature, seems about the best way to treat it. One can hardly work up a
spirit of profound indignation or grow morbidly melancholic over a
humming kangaroo. A few morons exist who perhaps could, but these
single-minded gentlemen were, as usual, too busy suppressing books,
collecting unpleasantly reminiscent picture postcards or putting
disturbing factors behind the bars to worry about Mr. Lamb and his
companions.

Nevertheless, Mr. Lamb would have wrung this individual
reporter's neck quite cheerfully and thoroughly had the neck
conveniently offered itself. However, the necks of reporters are not
always the easiest things in the world to establish contact with, save
through the medium of a bottle containing any fluid remotely alcoholic,
including varnish and rub-down preparations.

Sitting this evening in the quietude of his study with his old
friend Kai Lung safely balanced on one long, thin knee, Mr. Lamb
delayed for a moment the pleasure of having this engaging Oriental
unroll his mat in order to peruse for the fifth time the far less
engaging inventions of some obviously depraved occidental newspaper
reporter.

These inventions were in part as follows:

THE STRANGE BEHAVIOUR OF
MR. T. LAWRENCE LAMB
APPEARS IN COURT WITH A NOOSE
ROUND HIS NECK

JUDGE GIBSON REFUSES TO HANG HIM

"Apparently anticipating the worst, Mr. T. Lawrence Lamb, of
Woodbine, N.Y., a well-known and, just previous to this writing,
conservative investment banker, presented himself before judge Gibson,
in general session to-day, with a noose neatly arranged round his
neck--this in addition to a tie of unusually lurid colour.

"In full justice to Mr. Lamb, it must be stated that his
appearance in court was due to no moral lapse of his own. One can only
ascribe Mr. Lamb's unconventional neck adornment to a desire to offer
himself in vicarious atonement for the sins of his daughter, Miss Hebe
Lamb, and her two accomplices, Miss Sandra Rush and Mr. Melville Long,
all active members of Woodbine's younger set.

"That these young people were a little more than active on the
evening of their arrest and subsequent incarceration is evidenced by
the fact that no less than fourteen serious charges were lodged against
them and that their trail of destruction extended from the dead centre
of New York's night-club district to a spot some forty miles distant
from the city.

"Additional interest is added to the mad progress of these
young people through the presence of a singing kangaroo, or, as Officer
Patrick Donovan prefers to call it, kingaroo. Whether this convivial
animal was a kangaroo or a kingaroo is difficult to establish at this
moment, due to the unfortunate fact that whatever the creature was it
successfully thwarted retention and is still at large. According to
Judge Gibson it is probably in some bush. The judge never offers an
opinion without some good reason.

"An element of mystery is introduced here, arising from the
inexplicable coincidence that the noose so unsuccessfully used to
restrain this night-club-loving animal was the identical one that so
nattily adorned Mr. Lamb's neck.

"Mr. Lamb has stated that finding the noose on the floor he
picked it up and slipped it on merely through lack of knowing anything
better to do with it. To his way of thinking, a noose obviously
required a neck, and not wishing to intrude upon the neck of some
perfect stranger, he quite logically put it on his own.

"In view of the gentleman's social position and
well-established conservative leanings, this is an explanation
difficult to believe. It can only be assumed that Mr. Lamb's mind
suddenly broke down under the shock of his daughter's conduct and that,
temporarily, the man was not anyway near himself.

"Evidently this was the charitable view that Judge Gibson took
of the situation, having been somewhat shocked himself by the sudden
appearance of an otherwise normal gentleman wearing a noose round his
neck, and to all intents and purposes willing to pay the supreme
penalty for his erring daughter and her no less erring friends.

"Apparently the sight of Mr. Lamb, together with the sincerity
of his bearing, touched some hitherto successfully concealed spring of
tenderness in the judge, who released the youthful offenders on a
suspended sentence, after what is believed to have been a pleasant
conversation in his chambers with the sacrificial Mr. Lamb.

"Miss Sandra Rush, an underwear model of no mean proportions,
is often seen in one of the many Lamb automobiles. This is, of course,
due solely to her close friendship with Mr. Lamb's daughter. The
singing kangaroo, it is believed, is still carolling his ribald songs
in some secluded bush."


It was on this high note that the story came to an end. It was also
as this note sounded that Mrs. Lamb entered her husband's study. Once
entered, she stood still and tragically awaited his acknowledgment of
her presence. Fearing that the acknowledgment might be indefinitely
delayed, she altered her pose at last and slanted an accusing finger at
the newspaper now drooping from Mr. Lamb's hands.

"What are you going to do about it?" dropped gloomily from her
lips. "I suggest you resign from everything and live somewhere else
under an assumed name."

Mr. Lamb elevated his knees, skilfully retaining control of Kai
Lung, and looked at his wife as if he were trying to place her in an
extremely feeble memory. Presently he unlimbered, rose, and vaguely
offered her a chair, which she in turn spurned, overacting the part in
doing so.

Ah yes!" murmured Mr. Lamb. "It's Sapho--my Tilly. You were saying...?"

"I was saying," Sapho put in, "that you should drop out of sight and
live under another name."

"Couldn't I grow a beard?" Mr. Lamb asked mildly. "I might even
dye my hair and continue to lurk here as one of your inspired friends
or a conveniently acquired uncle from Australia. They say here in the
paper that the kangaroo or kingaroo--I prefer the latter version--came
from the bush. And to think that we both shared the same noose. This
paper also says that he sang. I missed that part. Can't have
everything, I suppose. Do you believe he actually sang, that kangaroo?"

"You should go to your underwear model or to your own daughter
for such information," was Mrs Lamb's crushing retort. " The light
attitude you are now assuming seems in the worst of taste to me. Once
more I ask you, what are you going to do about it? I cannot afford to
be associated with a laughing-stock. My life--what modest talent I
possess--was never intended to be shackled to a personality so--so coarse
and unsympathetic as yours...so utterly self-centred and lacking in
the finer shades and vibrations of emotion. My life should be led with
a larger, a higher vision. Everyone recognises that fact."

"The word that I have in mind," said Mr. Lamb slowly, "the only
one I consider a fitting reply to your pathetic remarks, is frequently
applied to wives by less delicate husbands than I. It's too honest a
word for your ears, so I'll let you exercise your limited imagination.
Consider the word as said."

He looked thoughtfully at some cigarette ashes that had fallen
on his left knee, started to brush them off, then deciding the effort
was too exhausting, gave it up.

"Still, there is something in what you say," he remarked at
last. "That Vacation Fund affair, from what I heard of it, provided
enough laughter to last this community for years. If both of us become
laughing stocks the general merriment might provoke an epidemic of
hysteria."

"I absolutely deny I was a laughing-stock," said Mrs. Lamb. "A
horse was responsible for all that...a low, vicious, yet strangely
human horse in some of its more objectionable actions. In many ways
that brute of a horse reminded me of you. Even now I shudder when I
think of him."

"Another point I share in common with this horse of yours." Mr. Lamb
grinned good-naturedly.

"I did not come here to discuss my emotional reactions to you,"
Mrs. Lamb answered coldly. "I hoped that we might be able to arrive at
some understanding--some civilised arrangement. Since the appearance of
all this scandal in the papers my nerves have been uprooted. It will
take years to get them anyway near back to their former condition.
They'll never get back entirely. You don't know what a thing like that
does to me."

Mr. Lamb, still grinning, seemed to be considering things. His
wife did not care for the grin. She recognised it. Also the light in
his eyes. Something particularly disagreeable always followed these
facial manifestations. She was not disappointed. Something unpleasant
did--something surpassingly disagreeable, a real accomplishment for Mr.
Lamb.

"Here's an idea," he said quite seriously. "Suppose I should
give you the use of my room over week-ends? What would you think of a
clubby little scheme like that? Sort of _mnage  trois,_ one member being
absent...I have a little pride."

Mrs. Lamb did not express an opinion of her husband's little
scheme. She did not even deign to meet Mr. Lamb's eyes. The mental
process of this crude man was altogether too antiquated to deal with
the complex sex impulses of a modern woman of genius. In bringing up
that phase of the situation he was once again displaying execrable
taste. She had come to his study to discuss his affairs, not hers. She
was her own woman, but now since the news-papers had published such
full reports of his actions in court, his affairs were public property.

"A long week-end," she heard Mr. Lamb urging. "From Friday to Monday night.
How about it, Tilly?"

She turned to the door, fully intending to go through it, when Mr. Lamb's
voice recalled her.

"I have one more suggestion to make," he said. "Suppose I should
retire from business and write a book entitled 'Wild Animals I Have
Been?'"

This suggestion was sufficiently arresting to move Mrs. Lamb to
change her mind and to accept the once rejected chair. Arranging
herself becomingly, she regarded her husband with what she fondly
believed to be a disarming smile.

"Then you have been animals," she remarked conversationally.
"How interesting! Tell me all about it. I knew you were that horse of
course, and I suspected you of being the bird, although I never saw it,
or rather you. Were you also the kangaroo?"

"Why this sudden interest in animals?" asked Mr. Lamb. "I never
noticed it before, save perhaps in that worn-out dish-mop you
occasionally defile our presence with--that snug harbour for jaded
fleas. And suppose I should admit I turned into animals and things, I
dare say you'd keep my guilty secret from the entire world with the
possible exception of the law courts and a select multitude of your
strolling players. You'd love to see me arrested as an escaped
kangaroo. Your present mood of sweet confidence--wifely interest--amuses
me."

With a burst of determination Mr. Lamb brushed the ashes off his knees,
spilled some more on his vest and continued.

"Well, strange as it may seem," he said, "I'm going to tell you
right here and now to your exceedingly false face, that recently I have
acquired the habit of turning into animals, both wild and domestic. At
this very moment I might become some extremely deadly reptile and do
you in with fangs filled with horrid poison. I wouldn't squeeze you to
death, because even snakes have some self-respect. Frankly I'd like to
fang you. I feel like doing it, but unfortunately the choice does not
lie with me. I might become a panther, instead, or an ant-eater, or a
rat, or a butterfly--God knows what I might become."

Lamb paused and regarded his wife darkly. She was not a thing
of beauty. Terror failed to improve the arrangement of her features.
Standing in the doorway she returned his gaze with eyes of glass, so
fixed and polished was the expression in them.

"I'm taking the trouble to tell you all this," Mr. Lamb went on
evenly, as he followed her into the dining-room, "because I don't give
one shrill hoot in hell how you spread the news. No one would believe
you anyway. You'd only be making a bigger fool of yourself than you
have already, if such an enormous achievement is possible--which I very
much doubt."

Mr. Lamb was thoroughly aroused now. For so many excellent
reasons he found himself weary of this woman and all her false
standards of life. He was standing by the goldfish aquarium, looking
down absently at its four occupants, three fish and one diminutive but
aged turtle.

"Doesn't that damned old turtle ever budge himself?" his
subconscious mind was asking, while quite consciously he continued
deliberately on with his wife.

"And here's another thing to worry about," he heard himself
saying. "It's highly possible for me to return home some morning in the
early hours in the guise of a famished tiger, an undernourished wolf, a
man-eating shark, a wild boar, a--a--" He paused to give himself time to
think of some particularly disagreeable animal--"a crocodile," he
resumed triumphantly. "And if that frail lily of yours shouldc hance to
be in my bed I'd gnash him up like that and gladly pay for the
subsequent nausea his presence in my belly would cause me. How'd you
like to come vamping into my room in that decrepit way of yours to find
all that remained of Mr. Gray was only a couple of corns dangling
between my jaws? A pretty picture! But a possible one, and you'd be
responsible for the death of the Woodbine Players' worst actor, just as
sure as I'm standing here."

The picture of Leonard Gray's corns dangling between the
dripping jaws of a crocodile proved too much for Mrs. Lamb. She turned
her back upon her terrifying husband and covered her face with her
hands. A sudden liquid plop startled her into reversing her position.
Mr. Lamb was no longer there. Amazingly the potential crocodile had
vanished. His last words, she remembered, had been, "just as sure as
I'm standing here," but the man was not standing there, and Mrs. Lamb
seriously doubted if he ever had stood there.

The confused woman was about to hurry from the room when her
eyes were drawn to the aquarium, where a fourth and larger goldfish was
chasing the other three round the tank in frantic circles.

Recalling the liquid plop she had heard, Mrs. Lamb slowly and
thoughtfully left the room. A sweet, womanly little plan was buzzing in
her mind. As she prepared herself for bed she wondered idly how Lady
Macbeth undressed while engaged in perfecting one of her many dirty
tricks.

While this dramatic disrobing was in progress, Mr. Lamb, with
an exasperated nose, was busily budging the turtle over the floor of
the acquarium. When the little russet man had taken a sudden fancy to
change him into a goldfish there still had been a number of things on
Mr. Lamb's mind he had wanted to say to his wife. Now he was taking his
irritation out on the turtle.

"Never thought of a goldfish," Lamb said to himself. "From a crocodile
to one of these made-up sardines....What a let-down!"

He gave the turtle an especially vicious budge.

"Get a move on," he muttered. "Shake a leg, you old scow. Show us what
you look like inside. Out with your head."

After many disturbing budges, the ancient turtle protruded his
neck and, looking resentfully at Mr. Lamb, gave utterance to the
equivalent of:

"What in hell, may I ask, do you think you're trying to do with me? This
is a private home. Flip on."

"I won't flip on," replied Lamb. " And I'm going to budge you to
my heart's content. Are you so confoundedly thick-shelled you don't
know when you're being budged?"

"I know when I'm being budged, all right," retorted the turtle,
"and I know when I'm not being budged, but what I don't know is what
purpose all this budging is going to serve. I never have dealings with
goldfish. We're not on the same level."

"No," replied Lamb, "you're on the lower level."

"Not low enough for you," said the turtle.

"You should be delighted I even budge you," answered Mr. Lamb.

"I'm not delighted," said the turtle. "And I hate ostentation."

"I'm only a goldfish pro tem," offered Mr. Lamb. " To-morrow I may be
a zebra."

"There's no such thing as a zebra," the turtle retorted. "It's all a
lie--the whole sordid story."

This fruitless conversation did not serve to restore Mr. Lamb's
good-humour. The turtle, he decided, was just about as opinionated and
ignorant as the seagull who had so revoltingly invited him to eat
fertilizer.

"Don't make a display of your vast ignorance," said Mr. Lamb. "I myself
have seen any number of zebras."

"Show me only one," challenged the turtle.

"There aren't any zebras here," replied Mr. Lamb.

"That proves it," said the turtle, with a nasty laugh. "That
makes a liar of you. The first thing I know you'll be trying to tell me
there's such a thing as a lion."

"Got you!" cried Lamb exultantly. "If there aren't any lions, how did
you know their name?"

"I didn't say I did," replied the turtle. "Good-night. I loathe a liar."

With this he withdrew not only his head, but also his four feet.

"Budge and be damned," came through the slit in his shell. "I'm going
to sleep."

"You've never been awake," Mr. Lamb threw back, as he flipped himself to
the surface of the tank.

"All goldfish are living lies," the turtle shouted after him,
popping his head from his shell. "There's not a gram of gold in the
whole silly mess of 'em. Just try to spend one, and see how much change
you get back ...not even a slim sardine."

Lamb dived swiftly back and made a vicious snap at the turtle's head, which
was neatly withdrawn.

"I hope your stomach turns up before dawn," he bubbled through his shell.

"I'd like to meet you in a plate of soup," was the best Mr. Lamb could
offer on the spur of the moment.

Still in an evil mood Mr. Lamb swaggered up to the goldfish now
huddled in a corner and, singling out one of them, addressed himself to
it.

"What sort of a fish are you?" he demanded truculently. "Male or female?"

"Female," snapped the goldfish, "for all the good it will do you."

"Hold on, baby," said Mr. Lamb. "I'm a fast and ruthless worker.
No morals at all. I take my fun where I find it, and I find lots."

"Well, don't feel funny round here," the other retorted. "Go somewhere else
and grab off your fun."

Mr Lamb regarded her broodingly for a minute.

"The lot of you get out of this corner," he said at last. "I sleep here."

He chased the goldfish to the other end of the tank and swayed
moodily off to sleep, thinking disagreeably about his wife. He strongly
suspected that the good lady was planning something, that if she could
only muster sufficient evidence to prove that he turned into things she
would try to obtain a divorce. It would make a pretty case, one of the
most unusual in the history of that splendid institution. Mr. Lamb did
not object to being divorced. To him it was an end highly to be
desired. But he did object to being divorced on the grounds of being a
kangaroo or a horse or a seagull.

That would be just a trifle too sensational for him.

His life as a goldfish was not a constant round of revelry, and
he was forced to resort to various little devices to keep himself from
being too oppressively bored.

His first effort in this direction was extremely elaborate, and
gave him no little satisfaction. He had discovered that by rubbing his
nose against the side of the tank he was able to trace a clear
impression which would, under favourable conditions, remain visible for
a few minutes. This opened up rare possibilities. Mr Lamb wondered why
other goldfish had not hit upon the idea before. He began by tracing
letters much in the manner of a sky-writer, and at last succeeded in
mastering the art of writing backwards. After much practice he became
highly proficient, so much so, in fact, that he felt himself qualified
to give a public demonstration.

One evening when Leonard Gray was dining at the house for the
further development of his art, Hebe called the attention of that
gentleman and her mother to the strange behaviour of the new goldfish,
which Mrs. Lamb, for purposes of her own, claimed to have purchased.

"Why, that new goldfish is actually tracing letters on the side
of the tank," announced the acute Hebe. "Look, everybody! It seems to
be trying to write something."

Everybody looked, including Thomas and one of the maids. All
eyes grew wide with surprise, some even with consternation, when they
spelled out the boldly written word: "ADULTERER"

It is perhaps not edifying to record that the youngest person
present was the one least shocked. With amused eyes Hebe looked from
one blank face to another.

"Now I wonder," she said musingly, "just who that fish is panning. Are you
by chance an adulterer, Thomas?"

Thomas looked really pleased.

"While my wife was alive, Miss Hebe," he explained, "she was a
just but exacting woman. I had neither the time nor the energy, miss."

"I understand and sympathise, Thomas," the girl continued. "Well, how
about you, Nora?"

"Why, Miss Hebe," Nora faltered, quite red but undismayed, "you know
very well I'm not married."

"You win on a technicality," said Hebe. "Neither am I married,
so a little possible adulteration lies for us in the future. Leonard,
you don't need to be married, so that leaves only--"

"Hebe!" cried Mrs. Lamb, her voice well out of control. "Please bring
this farce to an end. Immediately!"

Mr. Lamb, seeing that his efforts had not gone unrewarded, cut
jubilant capers across the surface of the tank, and before the dinner
was over achieved the following cryptic warning:
"KEEP OUT OF MY BED"

Again Hebe made sure that this feat, though clearly unappreciated by
her mother and Mr. Gray, did not pass unread by them.

From this point on, conversation became a matter of eloquent
silence pierced by furtive glances. It is to be doubted if either Mrs.
Lamb or her leading man was aware of what they were eating.
Mechanically they masticated, sedulously averting their eyes from the
tank containing the loquacious goldfish.

Later that night, when Sandra Rush and Melville Long dropped
in, Hebe introduced them to the remarkable goldfish, who, with great
speed and celerity, traced on the side of the tank:
"JAIL-BIRDS "

He also attempted to flip some water in Sandra's face with his tail,
but only succeeded in spotting her dress.

"It's the attenuated one all right," replied Sandra, "but very
much compressed. I recognise his feeble sense of humour. Let's take him
out and make him gasp a bit."

She made a snatch at the goldfish, but some clever fin-work
sent him to the floor of the tank, where he remained craftily alert.
Hebe stood considering the goldfish with an unusually serious
expression. Long, taking note of this novel manifestation, asked the
reason for it.

"Sapho says she bought him herself," replied Hebe. "Wonder why she
claims that?"

Sandra looked at her quickly with large, comprehending eyes.

"Perhaps she intends to do in earnest what I suggested in fun,"
she said. "You'll have to stand guard over that goldfish, Hebe. Perhaps
your little russet friend didn't foresee such a possibility as this.
The attenuated one is quite defenceless now."

Sandra, too, was a little more serious than was her wont. For a
long time she stood looking down at the goldfish lurking at the bottom
of the tank.

"How long do you suppose this animal stuff is going to
continue?" she asked of no one in particular. "It would be nice if he
remained himself for a while, so that a person could get to know him."

The following evening Mr. Lamb arranged still another little
diversion for the edification of his wife. When she put in an
appearance for dinner she found him floating gruesomely, with his belly
prominently displayed for all the world to see. The other goldfish,
huddled in a corner, seemed to be regarding the corpse with frightened
eyes.

An expression of gratitude to God escaped the lips of the
fish's wife. He had spared her the annoyance of being a murderess. The
happy woman raised up her voice and called for aid.

"Hebe!" she cried. "Nora! My poor goldfish is dead."

When these witnesses had been summoned to her side, Mrs. Lamb proceeded
to do a thing that revolted her every instinct.

"See," she said in a voice of anguish as she dipped her hand in
the water, "the beautiful thing must have died. What a pity, and what a
darling he was!"

"You'll look swell in mourning," observed Hebe, closely scrutinising the
goldfish. "Are you going to give it a church funeral?"

"Don't be silly, Hebe," she replied, casting herdaughter an uneasy look.
"This is no time for humour."

To hold a fish either dead or in the full flower of youth is not
one of life's most reposeful moments--not for the vast majority of
normally constituted persons. Mrs. Lamb, though not normally
constituted, felt far from well when she fished the slithery body of
her husband from the water.

"Nora!" she cried. " Get something to put him in...the garbage can."

"Him?" inquired Hebe mildly. "Do you know that fish's sex?"

It was at this moment that Mr. Lamb decided it was about time to
stop playing dead. He had sacrificed for his art practically all the
breath he could well afford to lose. If he ever got into the garbage
can he felt sure he would sacrifice his entire quota. Therefore, with
an artful wriggle, he flipped himself from the delicate grasp of his
wife and plopped gratefully back into the water.

When Nora returned with a coffee-strainer held diffidently in
her hand, she had the joy of seeing the goldfish sporting briskly about
in his temporarily natural element.

Mrs. Lamb was not able to dine. She was revolted as well as
disappointed. When she attempted to express her profound pleasure at
the restoration of the goldfish to its former good health and spirits,
her voice choked with the insincerity of her emotion.

Naturally this altogether uncalled-for conduct on the part of a
goldfish did not pass unnoticed by his colleagues in the tank. Their
first attitude of fear passed to one of pity, for they felt that the
poor fish was indeed a child of God, more than a little cracked about
the gills. This attitude, however, soon gave place to one of admiration
when they realised that there was a method behind the apparent madness
of this resourceful companion of theirs. The lady goldfish, taking Mr.
Lamb at his word, gave evidence of the sincerity of her admiration by
suggesting the production of goldfish on a modest scale. Mr. Lamb toyed
with the idea, but realising he might be a bull or a zebra by the time
his progeny were goldfish, the incongruity of the situation robbed it
of its attractiveness.

He succeeded in teaching them to swim in formation like
aeroplanes, putting them through loops, nose-dives and tail-spins. The
servants could hardly be driven away from the tank, so great was their
interest in these aquatic displays. The climax was reached one morning
when the four goldfish were discovered solemnly swimming backwards
round their tank. There was no ostentation about this performance, no
suggestion of a desire to please or to attract attention. It was as if
overnight the fish had come to the decision that it was about time to
reverse the order of things. They merely swam backwards with a
naturalness that would have led one to believe that fish had always
swum backwards from the infancy of Noah.

It was difficult to serve breakfast that morning, through
Nora's inability to keep her attention fixed on her ordered duties.
Even the impeccable Thomas seemed a trifle vague and preoccupied. Mrs.
Lamb endeavoured to ignore the goldfish, but Hebe's cheers of
enthusiasm made it hard to pretend that all was not as usual.

The turtle was disgusted. When Mr. Lamb, with pardonable pride,
asked him what he thought about it, he replied that it was " Silly damn
rot," and that no good came from going against the laws of nature.

With the turtle Mr. Lamb could find no point of agreement. They
began to argue and bicker whenever they tried to converse. The turtle
insisted on criticising the furniture and appointments of the
dining-room. He was particularly sarcastic about the design of the rug.
Mr. Lamb naturally took this to heart, the dining-room being more or
less his, and although he was not responsible for its arrangements he
found himself defending them with the fervour of a zealot. To hear him
argue with the turtle one would have thought that Mr. Lamb had
personally selected each article of furniture in the room. Relations
between the two were finally broken off when the turtle referred in the
most disparaging language to a "long drink of water," who used to be
seen hanging about the place, and whose absence he noted with
gratification. Mr. Lamb, fully appreciating the fact that he himself
was the long drink of water in question, cursed the turtle roundly, and
was in turn as roundly cursed.

The fat was in the fire when Mr. Lamb wrote one evening for the benefit
of his wife the following disquieting announcement :
"TO-DAY A FISH : TO-MORROW A SNAKE "

Upon reading this warning Mrs. Lamb realised that it was high
time to act. Her husband as a snake would be a far different matter
from her husband as a goldfish. She nerved herself for action,
endeavouring to absorb into her spirit the murky mood of Lady Macbeth
on one of her bad days.

When the household was quiet that night, she corded her
dressing-gown round her waist and crept down-stairs. For a wonder Mr.
Lamb was actually asleep and balanced on an even keel in his own
private corner. This time Mrs. Lamb's hand was swift and sure. With a
sharp intake of breath, she seized her unsuspecting husband and carried
him to the kitchen. Here she looked desperately about for something in
which to put him--not the garbage can, for his remains might be
discovered there and the crime traced to her. Mrs. Lamb wanted a modest
but secure sarcophagus for the body of her husband. An empty sardine
tin would have done splendidly. A soda box would have been a great help
at the moment. She was even considering the possibilities of squeezing
him into a small bottle, when Mr. Lamb made an energetic flip for
liberty and life. The flip was only partially successful. It
transferred him from Mrs. Lamb's hand to Mrs. Lamb's stomach, where he
continued his flipping, the cord round his wife's waist successfully
preventing further descent.

Mrs. Lamb was no fit woman. She is not to be blamed. No woman
is quite at her best with a wet and deter-mined goldfish flipping
clammily against her stomach. It is to be doubted if many men would
have retained the stoicism and dignity of the more insensitive male
under the same circumstances.

The picture Mrs. Lamb presented was that of an utterly
abandoned muscle dancer, one thoroughly interested in her profession.
It was an animated picture. Nor was it unaccompanied by sound. Little
ecstatic cries, sharp exclamations, gasps of vital anguish fell from
the convulsive lady's lips. They made the picture complete. At least so
thought Hebe as she stood in the doorway and witnessed her mother's
contortions.

Then before the girl's startled eyes an amazing thing took
place. She saw Mrs. Lamb suddenly bulge to almost twice her size. She
heard the rip of her nightdress, and before she had time to realise
exactly what she was witnessing, she saw her mother flat on her back on
the kitchen floor and her father, dripping wet, standing beside her.
The little russet man had not deserted him, Mr. Lamb had been saved in
very much less than the nick of time.

Mr. Lamb was breathing hard and apparently his wife was not
breathing at all. When she did breathe it was to give utterance to a
wild cry.

"Murder!" she announced. "Murder! Your father's trying to strangle me."

"You damn near did strangle me," said Mr. Lamb. He extended a
hand and helped his wife from the floor. "Sorry, Sapho," he remarked
apologetically, " but I could never fit in that bottle now."

Sapho was beyond speech.

Having failed lamentably to emulate the example of Lady Macbeth,
the wife of the ex-fish felt that at least she could follow her advice.
She stayed not on the order of her going, but went at once. Mr. Lamb
picked up the bottle and considered it with a peculiar feeling.

"This," he said, extending the bottle to Hebe, "was intended to
be your father's last resting-place. I might have been a bottle baby,
but be damned if I'll be a bottled corpse."

"Maybe the next time she'll have to use a cage," suggested Hebe.



CHAPTER XV
SANDY GETS HER MAN


MR. LAMB was not in the pink. He had returned from his office far from well,
either mentally or physically. His life as a goldfish had not improved his
health. He had absorbed too much stale water and overlooped a bit.
Furthermore, the requirements of constantly readjusting himself were
proving altogether too exacting.

Brother Douglas, fresh from a convention of the Directors of
American Youth, handed him a letter. Without comment he received it and
began to read. Hebe watched her father. When he had finished the letter
he swore more from amazement than anger.

"Listen to this," he said. "It's good."

Then he began to read:

_"I can no longer live under the same roof with a
murderer. Therefore I fly. I have stood every humiliation, every form
of abuse, but I do not feel called upon to sacrifice my life for a man
who turns into various things at a moment's notice. My life is in
danger, there-fore I fly. Do not attempt to find me. Do not attempt to
follow. I fly. Pursuit is in vain. This is the end."_

A dazzling silence followed the reading of this tragic epistle. It was
broken by Mr. Lamb.

"Now, who in hell," he asked almost pleadingly, "does she expect to follow
her?"

"I'm glad she remembered to send love and kisses to her unnatural daughter,"
said Hebe.

Douglas got up and began to whistle, "All alone on the Telephone."

Mr. Lamb looked at him and grinned.

"Douglas," he asked, "how do you manage to be such a damn fool without ever
an intermission?"

Brother Dug looked back at Mr. Lamb and also grinned.

"I was merely trying to keep you from breaking down," he
replied. "When face to face with tragedy, sing, whistle or do both.
Hebe, play something on the piano, and we'll all have a bit of a song."

Without a word Hebe went to the piano and struck a resounding
chord. Had Mrs. Lamb not been so busy flying she would have had the
pleasure of hearing floating through the windows of her abandoned home
the words and music of the old familiar hymn, "Praise God from Whom all
Blessings Flow." The voices of the three singers blended rather well,
and the rendition of the hymn was marked by a certain sincerity of
feeling not always to be found in church.

Well, Douglas," asked Mr. Lamb, when the hymn had been brought to a crashing
climax, "are you going to desert us now?"

"No," said Douglas, displaying an unexpected streak of
embarrassment. "That is, not unless you want me. I'm a little too fat
for flying, and I'm sure no one really wants to murder me, although
once I was pretty nearly scared to death."

When he made this reply he carefully avoided looking at Mr. Lamb.

When dinner was served, Mr. Lamb looked beamingly upon Thomas.

"Thomas," he said, "Mrs. Lamb may not be with us for some time to come. Her
presence is indefinitely postponed."

For once Thomas was taken off his guard. With eager hands he
hastened to the table and started to remove the absent lady's plate as
if to make sure of his master's statement. His face was alight with
pleasure. Mr. Lamb's voice interrupted his activities.

"Not so ruthless, Thomas," he admonished. "You needn't do it now. Just
remember it in the future."

As Mr. Lamb sat at dinner his eyes kept constantly straying to
the aquarium, where the three goldfish he had come to know so well were
drifting drowsily about as if in languid expectation of a lost leader.
It gave him a feeling of satisfaction to know that his old enemy, the
turtle, was once again forced to peer out at the "long drink of water"
he had spoken of so disparagingly. Impulsively Lamb rose from the table
and with his knife budged the old fellow across the bottom of the tank.

"How indignant he must be," thought Mr. Lamb. "I only wish he could appreciate
the full flavour of the situation."

Then he singled out the lady goldfish and considered her for a moment.

"I might have been the father of her children," he mused as he
returned to the table. "That would have been a pretty state of
affairs."

Throughout the remainder of the dinner he couldnot shake off
the weird knowledge that only a short time ago he had been swimming
about in that tank and looking out at his wife and daughter and the
ubiquitous Mr. Gray. It would be difficult, he decided, for the little
russet man to provide for him a more novel experience. Lamb heartily
hoped it would be the last. He was more than willing now to remain a
normal human being for the rest of his life. His desire to remain
himself was greatly intensified now that his wife was
absent--permanently absent, he hoped. This line of thought automatically
brought him round to Sandra Rush, and a dark, brooding look came into
his eyes. He recalled her far-away expression when she had watched the
scenery that morning on the train, and the story she had told him about
the two little ponds. She was not always depraved. Sometimes she could
be quite decent. Very seldom, though. Mostly mad and wild and reckless.

"Too old," he said, unconsciously speaking aloud. Too damn old."

"Beg your pardon, sir," said Thomas. "Is the chicken too tough for you?"

"Chicken's fine," replied Mr. Lamb. "Why?"

"I thought I heard you say it was too old, sir," said Thomas. "I felt sure
it was about the suitable age, sir."

"But I'm not, Thomas," Mr. Lamb replied. "I'm too damn old. Don't you
think so?"

"That depends," answered Thomas consideringly. "Too old for what, if
I may ask, sir?"

"Oh, go to the devil, you fossilised lump of sin," said Mr. Lamb. "I didn't
mean six-day bicycle racing."

"Well, you might be a few years over for that," was the
imperturbable decision of Thomas, "but you're still good for your share
of--er--sport, if I make myself clear, sir."

"Most delicately so, Thomas," put in Hebe. "I quite agree with
you. It pleases our major to believe that he is of ancient vintage. By
cultivating that frame of mind he hopes to escape adventure."

"I've had adventures enough, God knows," said Mr. Lamb.

"But not of the nature I mean," responded his daughter. "Those still
lie ahead."

"There's not much good in either of you," declared Mr. Lamb,
putting down his coffee cup. "You'll excuse me now if I retire to my
study. Douglas, I hope you'll remain uncorrupted now that your sister
is no longer here to protect you."

"I have nothing to fear in that line," observed Douglas. "My
adventures lie neither behind me nor before. That's one of the
tragedies of a fat man."

"He throbs out his sex in song," said Hebe, as Mr. Lamb left the room.

Retrieving the much interrupted Kia Lung, Mr. Lamb elaborately
arranged himself in his chair and prayed to God that he should be
allowed to proceed at least a few pages in the book before he was
transformed into another animal, bird, reptile, or fish. He had read
exactly two paragraphs when the door flew open and Sandra burst into
the room.

"I thought you'd be glad to see me," she cried, standing radiantly
before him.

"What led you to form that totally erroneous impression?" asked Mr. Lamb,
looking at the girl over the top of his book.

"Why, Sapho's decamped," she went on happily. "And now everything's going
to be all right."

"All right for what?" Mr. Lamb demanded unbendingly.

"For us," said Sandy breathlessly. "The coast is clear."

"It isn't at all clear to me," Mr. Lamb replied. "What form of depravity
are you now suggesting?"

"Any and all," said Sandra. " You're my man now."

In spite of himself Mr. Lamb could not repress a grin.

"Get to hell out of here," was all he said.

"Put me out," she challenged.

"Go on," warned Mr. Lamb. "Get to hell out."

"Get to hell me out if you can," she answered.

Mr. Lamb rose slowly and stood over the girl.

Quite deliberately, quite effortlessly, he picked her up in his arms and held
her suspended.

"I don't know whether to spank or to kiss you," he remarked,
looking unsmilingly down into her deep and disturbingly provocative
eyes.

"I'm all set for a little of both," said Sandy.

Lamb did the latter. He did it extremely well, so well, in fact,
that Thomas, entering with a decanter of whisky, remained unnoticed in
the doorway. Quietly the old fellow closed the door and seated himself
on one of the dining-room chairs, a liberty he had never taken. Then he
raised the decanter to his lips and drank a silent toast. Things were
indeed looking up in the house of Lamb.

Somewhat subdued, Sandra and Mr. Lamb were sitting a little later on the
private veranda adjoining his study.

"I hope you don't turn into a bear," said Sandra. "I hope I've done my last
turn," said Mr. Lamb.

"So do I," she answered. "I'd hate to lose you now."

Mr. Lamb turned in his chair and found her eyes in the darkness.

"You're sure you're not kidding me?" he asked. "You know, you're
such an exaggerated person. I'm never sure whether you're making fun of
me or not. You see, I'm not used to young girls. I've always been sort
of out of it and faithful--not to her so much as to myself. This thing
sort of puzzles me. I don't see where I get off with a fine-looking
girl like you. Old enough to be your father."

There was something so utterly helpless and fumbling in this
speech of Mr. Lamb's, something so amazingly innocent and sincere, that
Sandra for no reason that she could fathom felt very much like crying.
Dimly she sensed the repressed youth and longing behind the
unappetising years through which this long, sardonic, quietly observant
man by her side had lived. While his wife had been mouthing about
beauty and living quite an unbeautiful life, he had just grinned his
slow, irritating grin and silently kept on wanting. And being decent
and rather commonplace. Yes, Sandra was more than sure that she was not
kidding. But she did not reply to his question. She did not want to
hear her own voice. She merely reached out, and taking his long, lean
hand, held it against her breast.

Way down below them in the darkness the lights of the town lay
against the other side of the valley. Even the blot contributed its
share to the general illumination.

Mr. Lamb was not unhappy. Neither was the girl. Both were silent. It seemed
better so.

Some hours later, when Thomas was pouring Mr. Lamb his
invariable nightcap, the old servant paused with the decanter half
raised and regarded this man whose toys he had once mended.

"You're fit as a fiddle, Mr. Lawrence," he offered. "Even for bicycle
racing, or I am very much mistaken, sir."

"What leads you to believe that, Thomas?" Mr. Lamb asked suspiciously.

"General observation, sir," said Thomas. "General observation. Nothing
more, sir. Good-night."

Leaving Mr. Lamb slightly puzzled, Thomas, with an annoyingly self-satisfied
expression, quietly with-drew.

"Now, I'm in a devil of a mess," thought Mr. Lamb, as he pondered cheerfully
over his glass.

Even Kai Lung lay forgotten upon his knee.



CHAPTER XVI
LESS THAN THE DUST


WHEN Mr. Lamb woke up next morning he was as sick as a dog.
And he was a dog. Weakly he flopped himself out of bed and
crawled across the room to his mirror. He had not the vaguest idea of
what he was. He knew he was something. He knew he was not himself. He
was some sort of four-footed animal with fur, and from the looks of his
feet Mr. Lamb felt convinced that he could not be much of an animal.

"That looking-glass," he thought to himself, "has reflected
many weird and startling images, but this time I think it's going to
get the shock of its life. So, perhaps, am I."

Lamb was right. The most woe-begone, flop-eared, putty-footed,
miscellaneous assortment of canine maladjustments leered out at him
from the mirror.

On previous occasions the little russet man had always done
well by Mr. Lamb. He had been the best of everything, no matter what it
was. He had been an imposing stallion, a bang-up seagull, a two-fisted
kangaroo, and a goldfish of note. Now, however, he was the worst dog he
had ever seen, obviously the son of a mother who had possessed an
unlimited capacity for experimentation, relieved by a certain jocular
capriciousness.

Of this dog confronting him, Lamb recognised little of himself
save perhaps a broodingly speculative cast of the eye. His ears were
long, spiritless, and yellow, seemingly sewed on to his head as an
afterthought. His hair grew over his black and tan body in unbecoming
fits and starts, first here and then there. He was a tufted dog. His
feet were large and woolly. They splayed out in front, giving him the
appearance of wearing old turned-up carpet slippers. He was a long,
low, ribby dog. One side of his face was black, the other side yellow.
Along his body this colour scheme had been reversed. He would have made
a striking model for a woman's bathing-costume, his haunches being
black and yellow, and his chest yellow and black. Taking him all in all
he was a dog to give one pause, a dog to walk around and speculate
upon, one to examine in detail at close range and then to view from
afar for a full effect.

Mr. Lamb did not regard himself in this light. Sick as he felt,
his heart was filled with shame. He had a desire to crawl away to some
quiet place, and there to make an end of it all. Life which last night
had tasted so sweet now lay sour in his mouth. His long, thin,
spineless tail drooped despondently on the floor.

"I can't possibly let myself be seen in this appalling
condition," he decided, as he placed a mop of a paw against his
swimming head.

When he had retired the previous evening he had known he was
going to be ill, but he had not taken into consideration the fact that
he was also going to be a dog--and such a dog as he had turned out to
be.

Because of the absence of his wife he had allowed the door
between the two rooms to remain open. With a loose, unco-ordinated
motion he shuffled through, and by a little clever but exhausting
manipulation got
himself out into the hall. Downstairs he found an open window, through
which he made a furtive and inglorious exit, landing with a thud on the
grass. For a moment he lay there painfully recovering his breath and
strength, then he shambled weakly off across the lawn, his body aching
and tongue lolling out.

Hebe from her window witnessed the departure of this
unfortunate-looking animal, little realising that it was her father she
saw, fleeing to escape the eyes of those who knew him.

Mr. Lamb has only the haziest memory of what occurred to him
after leaving his home. Certain episodes stand out in his mind like
flashes caught from a fast-fading dream.

He recalled, for instance, slinking along the shadowy side of
the road until he came to a rustic bridge where two men were holding a
heated debate upon religion, the day being Sunday and their flasks
potent with applejack. Here in an unneeded little patch of sunlight Mr.
Lamb lay down to rest and to warm himself a bit.

"Believe in your miracles if you will," one of the religious
fanatics was saying, "but as for me, I think they're a lot of
apple-sauce invented by a gang of grafting old prophets who couldn't
even predict the next day's weather."

"Sure they could," said the other. "Didn't they call the turn
on many a blight and famine? You should read about all the things they
figgered out--floods, pestilence, the destruction of towns, battles and
alarms and--and--all sorts of calamities."

"They must have been a cheerful little bunch of predictors,"
observed the unbeliever ironically. " Didn't they ever say something
pleasant?"

The other paused to consider this difficult question. It was a
bit of a poser for him, yet he felt duty-bound to stand up for the
prophets. Suddenly his face cleared. Light had been given him.

"Sure they did," he answered. "Judgment Day."

"A very pleasant day that'll be," said the other. "Especially for you.
And if they did, it was guesswork, pure guesswork."

He took a swig at his flask and looked triumphantly at his
friend, then let his gaze drift to the dog lying huddled up in the
grass and leaves.

"Well, if all them things weren't miracles," the defender of the faith
demanded, "just what would you call a miracle?"

"This is what I'd call a miracle," was the other man's ready
reply. "If that there mut should get up right now and, putting his nose
in the centre of the bridge, make a complete circle with his
awful-looking body, that would be some miracle."

Sick as he was, Mr. Lamb could not resist the temptation. He
got up and walked to the centre of the bridge. Then placing his nose
down in the dust he held it firmly in position and described a complete
circle with his body. With his nose still in place he rolled up his
eyes to see if he had produced the desired effect or if he should
continue on. The men were stunned. They returned the dog's inquiring
gaze with eyes full of applejack, wonder and trepidation. The
unbeliever was actually frightened. He took another pull at his flask
and timidly fixed his eyes on the dog. Mr. Lamb once more deliberately
described a circle and sat down in the middle of it, holding up one paw
as if in benediction.

"God Almighty, it's a miracle," breathed the unbeliever. "Do you think we
should kneel down and pray?"

"Let's get rid of these flasks," suggested his friend. "It doesn't look
quite right."

The two men tossed their flasks in the bushes, then looked at
Mr. Lamb for some sign of approval. Mr. Lamb nodded his head three
times, rose and shambled weakly down the road. The men gazed after the
retreating dog until a turn in the road hid him from view. For a moment
they looked silently at each other, then, like the vast majority of
converts, they backslid completely and, diving into the bushes,
returned with their flasks, which they drained with great speed and
dexterity. By nightfall they were telling their friends about a dog
that sang hymns and preached sermons.

Mr. Lamb next remembers himself lying weak from exhaustion and
nausea in the sunlight before a small cottage. Through the door he
could see a man and his wife facing each other across the
breakfast-table. A good-looking couple, but hostile. Their eyes met
with studied indifference. No words were exchanged between them. When
the man rose to get his hat a new expression came into the woman's eyes
as she furtively followed his movements. There was in them something
soft, a sort of silent cry. Without uttering a word of farewell, the
man went to the door of the cottage, then stopped when he saw the sick
dog. With a low murmur of friendship he bent over Mr. Lamb and lifted
the weary head. Then the man brought the dog into the cottage.

With a bitter expression about her lips, the woman stood by the
stove and watched her husband patting and fondling the dog. In one hand
she held a pan of hot water. When the man asked her for some hot milk
she shrugged her shoulders and turned away.

"Damn you," said the man in a low voice. "Get me some hot milk for the
poor, sick creature."

Lamb hated hot milk, but appreciated the man's good intentions.

"Will you get that milk?" the man demanded, his voice still low and
impersonal.

Suddenly the woman flared up and turned on her husband. Her face was white
with something deeper than anger.

"No!" she cried, dashing the hot water over Mr. Lamb. "No! No! No!"

Mr. Lamb gave a low moan of pain, but made no move. His eyes
were on the woman. She was trembling with little shudders of revulsion.
He saw the man spring forward and slap the woman sharply across the
face. The woman swayed slightly, then stood quite still looking
straight ahead of her, the same bitter smile fixed on her lips.

Then Mr. Lamb saw the man slowly turn his back upon the woman.
His head dropped, and two tears trickled down his cheeks. His hands
were clenched by his sides. Gradually the bitter smile melted from the
woman's lips, and in its place came a certain tenderness.

"Come here," she said at last, holding out her arms to the man. "Come here,
come here to me."

And the man went to his wife's arms. She held him fiercely, and
Lamb beheld her face with pleasure. A pretty woman she was, he thought,
and well set up. Just a trifle too impulsive.

He stayed only long enough to show that there was no hard
feeling, then quietly slipped away, leaving the man and his wife with
their tongues at last unloosed. Once more he took to the road, feeling
somewhat Boy Scoutish, having just performed his daily good deed.

Exactly when it was Lamb never rightly remembered. All he can
recall is seeing a large, handsome hall with the open doors of a
library at one end. He also recalls a wide stairway mounting up
majestically to a balcony. A fine, lean, white-haired old gentleman was
having a row with an equally fine and lean-looking son. Both were
saying things they would regret the moment they were uttered.

"Your political ideas, like all your ideas, are fallacious
right through," the old man said. "Those radical friends you are now
cultivating should be taken out and shot. Yes, sir! Shoot 'em down.
They're Reds ...the scum. And, furthermore, they are not welcome here.
I forbid them the house."

"So I can't bring my friends into my own home," replied the
young man, rising excitedly and facing his father. "Then it isn't a
home of mine. I forbid myself the house where my friends are not
welcome."

The old gentleman stiffened. There was a cold smile on his lips.

"Forbid and be damned," he said distinctly. "Go live with the friends of
your choice."

Without another word the young man raced up the stairs. Mr. Lamb
remembers watching from his place of concealment the old gentleman's
eyes as his son rushed away. They were filled with anxiety and
loneliness now that the mask of pride had been momentarily dropped. He
paced up and down the heavy carpet, opening and closing his hands
helplessly.

Now he looked old indeed to Mr. Lamb--old and somewhat smaller.

In a short time the boy returned with two suitcases, and once
more the old gentleman stiffened, forcing the years and the loneliness
back by an effort of his stubborn old will, his pride of race and
breeding, his belief in lost traditions.

"You will not be inconvenienced any more," said the young man.
"Good-bye, sir."

"Your consideration is appreciated," replied his father. "Good-bye."

The young man looked back once, hesitated, but seeing his father
standing with his back to him, he turned away and disappeared through a
door in the hall. The moment the door closed the old gentleman altered
his rodlike attitude and stood as if listening. Presently he heard the
hum of a motor, and something like a sigh escaped his lips. He fumbled
in a cigar-box and automatically selected a breva, then he sank to a
chair and looked dully at the unlighted cigar.

It was at this point that Mr. Lamb slipped out of his corner
and lurched to the gravel driveway. He did not know what he was going
to do, but he fully intended to do something. This silly impasse
between the old fool and the young fool must be broken. He saw the
glare of the headlights sweeping round the curve from behind the house,
and he began to bark and howl the best he knew how. Dragging himself to
the middle of the driveway, he pranced on his hind legs and waved his
foolish looking paws commandingly.

Too late. The lights swerved sharply. Mr. Lamb felt himself
smashed and hurtled through the night. Then he heard the crash of the
automobile as it collided with one of the trees on the lawn. Still Mr.
Lamb retained consciousness.

He saw the old gentleman, followed by several servants, hurrying down
the driveway.

"My boy," the old gentleman called through the darkness. "Are you hurt?"

"It's all right, dad," came the relieving response. "I'm looking for a
poor mut I hit. Bear a hand and help me find him."

"It's a wonder your damn fool neck isn't broken," said the old gentleman,
coming into the flood of the lights.

He put his arm round his son's shoulder.

"Sure?" he asked.

"Sure, sir," said his son. " But the mut is, I'm afraid. Odd acting dog.
He seemed to be deliberately trying to stop the car."

"A good sort," said the old gentleman. "Hope we can patch him up."

With the aid of a flashlight, Mr. Lamb was eventually plucked
from a bush. The old gentleman himself carried him into the house. A
man was dispatched in another car for a doctor. Just before Mr. Lamb
lost control of the situation, he had the pleasure of seeing two
suitcases being carried up the broad stairs. Then Lamb for the nonce
let the world go hang. It was too full of trouble for him. He could not
be expected to arrange and settle everything.

When he once more favoured the world with his presence, Mr.
Lamb found himself on the clean, warm earth. He was in a sort of wired
runway, at the end of which was something that appeared to be a
dog-house de luxe. A soft pillow was beneath his head, anda broken
bandage trailed from his left foot. But what was more disconcerting
still was the large, red face of a man in proximity to his.

"What did you want to get in here for?" the face inquired reproachfully.

Mr. Lamb looked down at himself and realised with a start that
he was no longer a dog. Once more he was Mr. T. Lawrence Lamb, a
conservative investment banker in an extremely embarrassing position.

"I didn't want to get in here," was all he could think of replying.
"Where in the deuce am I?"

"You're in one of the finest dog hospitals in the country,"
replied the face, with pardonable pride. "One of the smartest and the
swellest."

"That," said Mr. Lamb, " might make a profound impression on a
dog, but it leaves me quite unelated. I don't want to be in a dog
hospital, no matter how swagger it may be."

"Then why did you get up out of bed and deliberately sneak over the wire
in your pyjamas?" asked the face.

It was true. Mr. Lamb was clad only in his sleeping togs. He had
to admit that undeniable fact. But he very much disliked to be lying
down on the flat of his back and talking up to that red face suspended
above him like the sun.

"Listen," said Mr. Lamb, after a moment of swift considering.
"If you'll only remove that face of yours I'll try to get up and talk
to you on my feet."

The face was slowly and reluctantly withdrawn, and Mr. Lamb felt less like
a bug under microscopic examination.

"Well?" said the wearer of the face, when Mr. Lamb stood confronting him.

"Ah, yes," replied Mr. Lamb easily. "I was thrown in here."

The man looked more hurt than surprised.

"Come again," he remarked brutally.

"Very well," said Mr. Lamb.	I'm a somnambulist."

"That kind of talk ain't going to get you anywhere," replied the man.

"I'm a sleep-walker," explained Mr. Lamb. "You're a damn poor liar,"
said the man.

"I'm doing the best I can," said Mr. Lamb. "Help me out, won't you?"

"What did you do with the dog?" the man demanded inflexibly.

"The dog must have gone out as I came in," said Mr. Lamb. "I never saw a dog.
I was sound asleep."

"And snoring," supplied the man, with heavy sarcasm.

"Now you're kidding me," said Mr. Lamb. "I'm serious."

"I know," replied the man. "That's what makes it so funny."

He looked up and down the runway.

"Well, the mut's gone," he remarked, "and it's good riddance of
bad rubbish. Never had such a clown in our kennels before. It mortified
me to have to look after him, he was that low-blooded. Some rich
gentleman sent him to us."

Mr. Lamb had heard quite enough about the dog. He looked at himself in
perplexity, then turned once more to the man.

"Listen here," he said, "we're getting nowhere this way. Lend me
an overcoat and get me a taxi, and I'll write you a letter all about it
...and the letter will have something in it much more interesting than
news. Get me?"

The man got him. Also he got him an overcoat, something in the line of
slippers, and a taxi-cab.

And, with the help of these, Mr. Lamb got home ...gratefully, wearily
and with the utmost discretion.



CHAPTER XVII
IN SANDRA'S BED


BEEN out for a bit of a walk," Mr. Lamb whispered, suddenly meeting Thomas
face to face as he, Lamb, was tiptoeing through the hall. "A bright,
fresh morning."

"It is, sir," replied Thomas blandly. "Just come back from a nice long
swim myself."

Mr. Lamb appeared not to have caught this surprising
announcement of the old servant. He was about to hurry to his room when
he suddenly remembered something.

"By the way," he called back. "There's a taxi-man outside. Slip him a
good tip. I got tired, and he brought me home.

Thomas, making some innocent observation about the convenience
of finding taxi-cabs in the early morning on deserted country roads,
departed on his mission, and Mr. Lamb sought the seclusion of his room.
Here he bathed, shaved, and dressed, and once more faced the world as a
respectable member of society. Then he sat down and thought.

His experiences as a dog had given him enough to think about.
He had never realise before that so many melodramas were taking place
about him--so many tragic, stupid, and sordid ones, so many touchingly
human. During the time that had elapsed since he had been a terribly
sick dog, Lamb had unconsciously grown. Always tolerant, his tolerance
now was vouchsafed a deeper understanding.

Mr. Lamb looked at his calendar and found that he had been a
dog for little more than a week. Where he had lain and strayed during
that time, how long he had remained at the kennels under the care of
the moon-faced man, he had not the remotest idea. He went to his desk
and wrote a letter to this individual. This letter bore no signature,
but contained a ten-dollar bill. When Thomas entered with a pot of
coffee and some eggs and toast, Mr. Lamb gave him the letter and,
indicating the overcoat and slippers, told him what to do with them.
Thomas needed no instructions, having had a brief but illuminating
conversation with the taxi-driver.

Although the thought of the office was distasteful to him, Lamb
went in by a late train. He would have liked to have seen his daughter,
but learned that she had spent the night with Miss Rush, the house
being rather lonesome on account of the absence of her father.

He found that his office was still doing business, although
much remained to be done. This he proceeded to do as well as he could
during the hours at his disposal, then, after reassuring Billings as to
the state of his health and mind, Mr. Lamb hurried home. The sanity of
the office had helped somewhat to restore his mental balance and to
dispel the morbid speculations that were disturbing him. Lamb could not
fight down the growing impression that he was a man apart, that somehow
the lines of communication between himself and the rest of the world
had been severed, perhaps for all time. He was seriously worried now by
the situation in which he found himself. If the little russet man set
his mind on it, he could take him clean through the animal kingdom, not
to mention birds, fish, and reptiles--insects even. Mr. Lamb was
appalled by the thought. Any sort of arrangement with Sandra was
entirely out of the question so long as he kept on changing. Even Hebe
would eventually grow tired of a father who possessed within him the
makings of a complete jungle.

It was in no cheerful frame of mind that Mr. Lamb sat down to
dinner that night. Nor was his hilarity heightened by what Hebe had to
report.

It seemed that during his absence Mrs. Lamb had returned to the
house, packed most of her possessions and, with the aid of two
taxi-cabs, departed mysteriously to parts unknown. She had been
accompanied by her maid. This news was not in itself disagreeable to
Mr. Lamb, but what went with it was not so reassuring. Hebe gave her
father to understand that in the course of a little chat with her
mother the good lady had shown she possessed some very accurate
knowledge of the recent activities of her husband. It appeared that she
was quietly collecting stray but alarming scraps of evidence as well as
interviewing certain parties. Just how she intended to use this
evidence and what her ultimate intentions were, Hebe was unable to say.
However, it was agreed between father and daughter that Sapho's
intentions so far as they were concerned could hardly be of a rosy hue.

"Would you object very much to being divorced?" asked Hebe.

"No," answered Mr. Lamb readily enough, " but I would object
very much to being displayed. I have no desire to furnish material for
the Sunday supplements and medical journals. Nor do I want to be
interviewed by reporters on how it feels to be a goldfish, or for a
kangaroo's opinion of New York's night clubs. Your mother, my child, is
not only after her freedom, but also her revenge. You see, Hebe, we've
really kidded her unmercifully even though she did try to cram me into
a bottle. Have you no sympathy at all for her? My indifference is, of
course, natural, but you're a sort of blood relation. I don't quite
understand--"

"Mother never had much time for me," Hebe broke in upon her
father. That's one of the reasons I'm such a hard-boiled egg. When I
was a kid I thought I was fond of her, tried to make myself believe I
had a regular mother, but that hopeful phase didn't last long. Sapho
didn't really ever care except in front of company. Then another thing,
major: I'm in the way of being a woman creature, and I get some purely
feminine slants on the workings of her mind. She's her own woman,
major, first, last and all time. If she can't be the bell cow she's not
going to trail along. That's all there is to it. When I think of that
worm Leonard Gray, I can find no sympathy in my system for Sapho. She
isn't breaking her heart about us and hasn't been for years. The thing
that surprises me is that she ever let me be born. I know for a fact
that since I've been a so-called young lady, she's resented my
existence. Sapho brooks no competition. She wants no reminder of the
advancing years. Hope you don't mind me speaking like this of my own
mother, but I've known for some time past I should give tongue; One
can't be loyal to two warring factions without getting shot full of
emotional holes. When you happen to be with us I prefer to be loyal to
you."

It was a tremendous speech for Hebe. Her father gazed at the
girl in surprise. He had never before heard her speak so earnestly or
at such length. She was indeed a young lady with a head as level as her
tongue was light.

"Well," he said, rising from the table and stretching his long arms,
"I do wish things would settle down a
bit--myself especially. Ever since we gave that little old chap a lift,
my life has been just one long atavistic orgy."

That evening he was given ample opportunity to peruse his book
without interruption. As a matter of fact, he had a little more privacy
than he needed.

For an hour or so he waited impatiently in his study for Sandra
to put in an appearance, then abandoning hope he turned to his book and
soon became absorbed.

About midnight Thomas came in to arrange a drink for his master
and to see if he wanted anything. It was a ceremony with Thomas, one he
loved to perform, and Mr. Lamb, realising this, permitted his old
friend to go through with it.

"You're feeling quite yourself, sir?" inquired Thomas as he was about to
withdraw.

"Yes," answered Mr. Lamb drily. "For a change."

"Glad to hear it, sir," said Thomas. "Good-night."

"Good-night," replied Mr. Lamb. " And, Thomas, don't forget to
leave a window open in the library. This house needs a little
downstairs ventilation."

Thomas understood. Ever since these strange disappearances of
Mr. Lamb the old man had been taking this precaution. It had been Hebe
who had first suggested the idea to him.

After Thomas had quietly closed the door Mr. Lamb returned to
his book and his drink. Presently his head began to grow heavy, and at
last he fell asleep.

Some hours later he awoke with the impression that all was not
as it should be. His drowsy eyes focused themselves on a long tail
conscientiously striped with grey and black bands.

"Either that tail belongs to me," he thought dreamily, "or else a cat is
sitting on my lap."

After some minutes of gloomy speculation he worked up enough
enterprise to settle the question. If the tail moved when he bade it
move, then the tail belonged to him, or rather he belonged to the tail;
and if he belonged to the tail, then it followed that he was a cat. He
thought the tail into action, and it moved with graceful majesty. "It's
mine," he said to himself regretfully. "I'm it again."

He remained as he was in the chair, all curled up and
considering. If he were half as fearful a cat as he had been a dog, he
decided he would remain in that chair without budging until the little
russet man, in the fullness of time, saw fit to turn him into
some-thing else. He held out one paw and studied it critically. It was
a sizable, efficient-looking paw, and appeared to be well equipped with
claws especially designed for back-yard combats. So far so good, he
decided. Then he turned his attention to his tail. The tail, too, was
not to be despised. It was a long, lashable tail, sleek and
artistically groomed. Mr. Lamb took heart. Nevertheless, he was loath
to take a full view of himself in the mirror. The last shock had been
too great. He dared not run the risk of another. Then his eyes fell on
the decanter.

Now, it is a strange example of perverseness that, as a man,
Mr. Lamb drank consistently but, except on rare occasions, always with
moderation, whereas, whenever he became an animal, his first desire was
to get himself well potted and to go about in search of trouble. Only
extreme nausea had prevented him from being a drunken, roistering dog,
ill-favoured by Nature and disorderly through inclination. He now began
to scheme and plan how he could best extract a drink from the decanter.
It would require no little doing--that he fully realised--but the
difficulty of the undertaking made him concentrate upon its
accomplishment the more earnestly.

Finally, he rose and, taking his empty glass from the table
with his two paws, he managed to place it on the arm of his chair,
which was next to the table and a little below its level. Then he
inserted a paw into the mouth of the decanter and dragged it to the
desired position. Judging the distance to a nicety, Lamb slowly tilted
the decanter until a satisfactory stream curved out and fell into the
glass. It was a neat, clean-cut achievement, and Mr. Lamb could not
refrain from admiring his own dexterity.

"Gad!" he exclaimed to himself. " Didn't even spill a drop. Not one. I really
deserve this drink."

Whether he deserved the drink or not, he proceeded to take it
with avidity, lapping up the fiery liquor with a long, red,
ladle-shaped tongue.

"I would have saved you the trouble, major," came a level voice from the
doorway.

Mr. Lamb interrupted his lapping just long enough to nod busily
at his daughter, then continued to polish off his drink to the limit of
his tongue's effectiveness, after which he sat down in his chair and
turned two glittering eyes on Hebe. The girl came into the room and
closed the door.

"I discovered you weren't in your bed," she remarked, "so I
naturally suspected the worst. Well, you're not a bad-looking cat," she
went on. "As a matter of fact, you're about the swellest thing in the
line of a cat I've ever seen--and one of the largest."

This gave Mr. Lamb an idea. He had long entertained a grudge
against the unmannerly backyard despot that had attempted to make the
bowl of puffed rice his own, when Lamb had been a seagull. He would
settle this grudge without further procrastination. It should be done.

Leaping from his chair he raced to the open window in the
library and literally hurled himself into the darkness. The huge drink
of whisky he had consumed was hot in his veins. He was ready and
willing to do battle to any gang of cats in the town. Within a very few
minutes Hebe's ears were pierced by the most blood-curdling assortment
of feline imprecations and screams of anguish she had ever had the
misfortune to hear. Shortly after this outbreak Mr. Lamb, redolent with
whisky and with every hair in place, swaggered into the room and
resumed his seat with a triumphant flourish of his long, sweeping tail.

The next morning he appeared at breakfast with a slight
hang-over. Either forgetting he was a cat or not caring whether he was
a cat or not, he took his place at the head of the table and looked
with favour upon his daughter.

"You're not a very respectable cat," she observed, returning his look
rebukingly, "even if you are my father."

For answer he opened his mouth to its fullest extent and
protruded his long red tongue, curling the tip ever so slightly, then
making it quiver like a leaf. It was a remarkable, but not picturesque
spectacle, and Thomas, coming into the dining-room, bent almost double
the better to view it.

After breakfast Mr. Lamb was seen dragging the morning paper
across the floor to his study, where he remained all day alternately
reading and sleeping.

At nightfall Mr. Lamb made his escape from the house and betook
himself to town. The first person who attracted his attention was
Simonds, walking peacefully down the street with his family. Once more
the imp of malice ignited Mr. Lamb's imagination. Suppose he should
startle Simonds. The idea was no sooner conceived than it was put into
execution. Getting a flying start he raced after the unsuspecting
Simonds and, leaving the ground with a wild shriek, landed heavily
between the man's shoulders, clawing and nuzzling him harmlessly but
frantically. The Simondses parted in disorder like pool balls on a
table. The purveyor of choice lots pitched headlong to the pavement,
where he remained in a half-swoon. By the time the crowd had collected
Mr. Lamb was well out of it all and gliding snakishly along in the
direction of Sandra's dwelling. On the way he encountered a large dog
whose heart and soul were wrapped up in the business of regaining some
much-needed sleep. Mr. Lamb approached the dog and deliberately cuffed
him on the side of the head.

Now this was where Mr. Lamb made an error of judgment if not of
good taste, for this dog, this slumbering brute of a beast, made a
business of cats. He specialised in their destruction. In his dreams he
slew cats. In his waking hours he lived his dreams. But Mr. Lamb was
ignorant of all this. He desired to put to the test the theory of the
nine lives. His curiosity was well rewarded. No sooner was the cuff
received than the dog automatically lunged at Mr. Lamb. His movements
were swift and sure, his technique flawless. Lamb was smothered beneath
the weight of the mighty dog. The world seemed to have turned into a
pair of flashing teeth and snapping jaws.

"This," thought Lamb to himself as he crawled between the dog's
hind legs, "is decidedly no go. What a mad dog this one turned out to
be."

To make matters worse the dog was not without his followers, and these
followers now followed Lamb as he sped along the street.

"Nine lives would not be quite enough," he decided, glancing
back over his shoulder at the baying rabble at his tail's end. "I'd be
four lives short in the jaws of that mob."

It was no laughing matter now, Mr. Lamb was winded and rapidly
losing ground. One of the dogs caught up with him and bowled him over.
The pack came thundering down, but Lamb with a desperate wriggle
managed to shake off the dog and make a little headway.

From her lawn Sandra was watching with indignation the uneven
pursuit of the cat, not knowing it was Mr. Lamb whose life was in
peril. She only realised that some poor cat was being unfairly
attacked, and her eyes grew bright with anger.

The dogs were upon him now and Lamb, fighting gamely, was borne
down beneath their numbers. Then he heard a voice calling, and he
recognised the voice. Sandra had waded into the seething mass of dogs
and was trying to extricate the cat. With his last ounce of energy Mr.
Lamb eluded a large red mouth, jumped free from the pack and sprang
into the girl's outstretched arms, where he lay panting and completely
through. For a few minutes the dogs swirled dangerously round the girl,
then gradually and cursingly withdrew before the commanding light in
her eyes.

Holding Mr. Lamb close against her breast, she took him to her
room and placed him gently on her bed. Later she brought him a bowl of
milk, which he drank gratefully. After this she undressed and went to
bed, the cat being already asleep.

When she awoke a man was lying in bed with her. The man was Mr.
Lamb. This was better than a perfect stranger, but still it was not so
good. She saw with relief that he was fully dressed, but quite rumpled.
She also realised that as far as clothing was concerned, he had the
decided advantage of her. Sandra's sleeping arrangements were always of
a sketchily attractive nature. She smiled to herself as a thought
tickled her mind.

"Well, here I am at last in bed with the man I love," she mused to herself.

Mr. Lamb opened his eyes and looked at her resentfully.

"Whom are you laughing at?" he demanded.

"Oh, nothing," said Sandra. "But the situation, even you must realise,
is highly compromising."

Mr. Lamb was about to drift back to sleep without deigning to reply when
she dug him in the ribs.

"Don't do that," she said. "You can't sleep here."

Mr. Lamb gave a startled grunt and again eyed her disapprovingly.

"Get out of this bed," said Sandy.

"Why don't you get out?" Mr. Lamb protested. "I don't have to go to work."

"I can't get out," replied Sandy.

"Don't be silly," said Lamb. " I've seen you in less than nothing before."

"That was in my professional capacity," she explained. "This is entirely
different."

"Much better," said Mr. Lamb, "so far as I'm concerned."

"And all this time," the girl replied, "someone is probably
listening at the door. Mrs. Cummings doesn't object to Hebe sleeping
with me, but I doubt if she'd carry her tolerance to the point of
granting you the same privilege. She saw me going to bed last night
with a cat in my arms. If she saw me going to bed this morning with a
man occupying the same relative position, things would be hard to
explain. Her mind is not oriental enough to understand."

"Listen," said Mr. Lamb, as his mind reverted to the events of the previous
night. "You damn well saved my life."

"And for thanks you crawl into bed with me and compromise practically all
that remains of my rep.," she replied.

"You deliberately put me in your bed," he retorted.

"But I little realised you were a lamb in cat's clothing," the girl replied.

"Neat but not altogether new," said Lamb. "Slip me a little good-morning kiss
and I'll try to get out of here."

"You're for ever getting somebody out of some-where," replied
Sandy, throwing two lovely arms round his neck and kissing him in no
undecided manner.

"Now get out," she murmured, pushing him from her. "Go and get yourself out
of here."

"We'll call this a trial trip," said Mr. Lamb as he eased himself out of bed.

"Pig," said Sandy with glowing eyes.

"Don't call me that," replied Lamb pleadingly. "I might be one at any minute
for all I know."

"You'll have to stop being things," said Sandra, "before we can come
to terms."

"I know," replied Mr. Lamb, "and I'm praying to God I do."

He went to the window and peered cautiously through one side of
the curtain. A long shed roof sloped down almost to the side of the
adjoining yard. If he could cross this roof unobserved he might be able
to jump into neutral territory. It seemed about the only thing to do.

"I'll have to try it," he said to Sandra. "Are there many people in the back
of this house?"

"Only about six or seven possible pairs of eyes, but they should
all be fixed on their plates at this hour," she answered easily.

If the truth must be told Sandra did not in the least object to
being compromised officially. She was out to get her attenuated Lamb,
and the sooner she got him divorced the happier she would be. She was
abandoned enough to hope that he would be seen when he made his escape
from the house.

Mr. Lamb raised the window to its limit and thrust out an inquiring head.

"Hasn't something slipped your memory?" asked the girl in bed.

Lamb came swiftly across the room and gathering Sandra's
yielding body in his arms held her against him for a moment, then
dropping her suddenly as if she had been an old sack, he slid his long
form through the window. At the edge of the roof he gathered himself
together and sprang into the air, landing neatly in the next yard right
beside a lady engaged in cutting flowers. Luckily the lady's back had
been turned when he had made his desperate leap, so that she did not
have a chance to see his point of departure from the roof.

"Gur-r-r," said the woman, unable to think of anything else to
say as she turned round abruptly. "O-o-o-oh, where did you come from?"

"I was just admiring your roses," replied Lamb with his most charming smile.

This remark did much to restore the lady to her usual state of assured
rectitude.

"They're not roses?" she said. " They're sweet peas."

"My mistake, madam," apologised Mr. Lamb. " You see I'm rather near-sighted."

The lady regarded Mr. Lamb's eyes for a moment as if they were things of glass.
Her expression was entirely unsympathetic.

"Well," she remarked at length, "the next time you want to
admire my sweet peas, which you don't seem to be able to tell from
roses, don't come creeping up behind me like a thief in the night.
You'd get just as much fun staying at home admiring an onion, or a
cabbage--it's larger."

Thereupon she walked jaggily off down her garden path, and Mr.
Lamb, feeling remarkably well, in spite of his strenuous encounter with
the dogs, returned to his home.

"I always suspected," he observed to himself, "that an investment banker
and a second-storey man had a great deal in common."



CHAPTER XVIII
THE WORLD'S WORST BOOTLEGGER


MELVILLE LONG was ready to prove himself at last. He was now the
proud possessor of much bad whisky and gin. A man in the blot
was responsible for its quality. In spite of this damning fact
the man continued to enjoy deep and unbroken slumber. Already
Mr. Long rejoiced in three customers. His heart was hopeful,
and Hebe's was in very much the same condition. But Hebe did not know
all of her Melville. She had an inkling, but no real knowledge of the
profundity of that engaging youth's ignorance of worldly affairs.
Everything was set for the initial delivery.

Melville Long had selected his list of prospective customers
more or less at random. He prepared it sketchily, according to the
appearance of the homes he chanced to pass in his rather purposeless
rambles. One house had especially impressed him, and into this house he
had insinuated his ingratiating presence. That this house was the
residence of Mr. Brickett, the most important bootlegger within a
radius of twenty miles, was unknown to Mr. Long.

Mr. Brickett received his caller with his usual urbanity,
believing him to be a new customer. His shock was therefore the greater
when Mr. Long offered to sell him an unlimited supply of gin and whisky
at a price well below Mr. Brickett's minimum.

Beneath this blow the bootlegger rallied gamely and lent an
interested ear to his young competitor's plans. It seemed, according to
Mr. Long, that all the bootleggers in the neighbourhood were slow and
inordinately expensive poisoners. He, Melville Long, was going to put
an end to all that. From now on, all other bootleggers would have to
reckon with him. He had no doubt that within a month or so they would
either move away or give up the game. Now, all of this interested Mr.
Brickett a great deal more than Melville Long realised. And the fateful
part of the interview was that both of them placed a certain amount of
credence in the words of Mr. Long. In this smooth, well-turned-out
young gentleman Mr. Brickett saw the potentialities of a dangerous if
not successful rival. In himself Mr. Long saw the possible solution of
the liquor question, and the longer he listened to himself talk the
clearer and closer grew the solution.

The interview ended on a note of mutual confidence and respect,
Mr. Brickett requesting Mr. Long to deliver two cases of gin and one of
whisky on the evening now at hand. Upon the departure of the budding
young bootlegger, Mr. Brickett got in touch with numerous minions of
the law who had reason to love him well, and with these same minions
arranged a little surprise party for Mr. Long on the evening of his
virgin delivery.

It was to this party that Mr. Lamb in a state of blessed
ignorance was being driven. He had been told by Hebe that it was to be
a mere pleasure trip, a short spin in the cool of the evening. She
wanted her father along to lend an atmosphere of eminent respectability
to a rather dubious enterprise. And because she wanted to do well by
her father she dropped by and picked up Sandra. Thus they sped with
high hopes and hearts aglow to the scene of the treacherous ambush. Mr.
Lamb afterwards remarked that the spot should be marked by a double
cross.

The car drew up before the residence of Mr. Brickett, and on
some flimsy pretext Melville Long, who had been driving, made it known
that he had to see a man for a minute. He hurried into the house and
was affectionately greeted by the double-dealing Mr. Brickett. If Mr.
Long would unload the cases, Mr. Brickett would send some servants to
carry them into the house. Mr. Long then returned to the automobile,
and much to Mr. Lamb's surprise, extracted a box from the trunk on the
rear of the car. Mr. Brickett's servants, it turned out, wore the
livery of the police department, and when Mr. Long hurried forward with
the box in his arms he found himself on the point of entrusting its
safety to one of these gentlemen.

It can be said for Mr. Long that when light dawned in his mind
it dawned with sudden clearness. In a blinding flash he saw and
comprehended the situation. With a cry of warning he flung the box into
Mr. Lamb's lap--that startled gentleman receiving it with a grunt of
pain--and swinging himself to the running board urged Hebe to take the
wheel and to drive practically anywhere at the highest attainable
speed. The officer of the law dashed forward to lay hands on Melville
Long, only to be met with that agile youth's foot in the pit of his
undefended stomach. As several other officers rushed for the car Hebe
got it started and swiftly under way. The chug of a motor-cycle
appraised them of the fact that they were not to be unaccompanied.

Mr. Lamb removed the box from his lap and carefully placed it
on the floor of the speeding car. Then he turned questioning eyes on
Sandra.

"Is this to be our habitual method of progress?" he inquired.
"Because if it is I'd prefer to alight and to let the merry whirl
continue without my superfluous presence."

"Would you leave me here all alone?" demanded Sandra.

"Without a moment's hesitation, if you were mad enough to
remain," Mr. Lamb replied. "Of course, I would much prefer your
company."

By this time Melville had climbed into the back of the car and was about
to join the busily occupied Hebe in the front seat.

"Melville, my boy," asked Mr. Lamb, "may I ask what is in this box that
made that officer so angry?"

"It's just this way," muttered Long, struggling forward to hide
his confusion. "They're all that way, Mr. Lamb. Don't mind them."

"I wouldn't mind them in the least," Mr. Lamb replied, "if they didn't
display such feverish interest in us."

By this time the telephone in Mr. Brickett's home had been
pressed into active service. The key points throughout the country and
the state were warned to be on the look out for Mr. Lamb's automobile,
the licence number of which was given, with a business-like description
of the automobile itself and its occupants.

Hebe had wheeled into a rough dirt road, and for a few minutes
they thought they had lost the motor-cycle policeman, but as she
stopped the car to enable Long to change places with her they heard a
faint but persistent throbbing behind them. Looking back they made out
the motor-cycle and its implacable rider bounding along in the
distance. Both were having rough going of it.

Then began a grim chase, which Mr. Lamb to this day views with
alarm and disapproval. On the rutted dirt road they more than held
their own with the motor-cycle, but when this road abruptly deposited
them on a main thoroughfare, the persevering policeman began to gain.
And when the road eventually placed them in the dead centre of a
thriving village they were indeed in great trouble, because it was here
that two state troopers, also equipped with motor-cycles, joined the
chase. These alert and determined gentlemen were of a different calibre
from that of the flying motor's former Nemesis. They believed in
producing revolvers and pointing them at things. The sound of shooting
brought joy to their hearts, and they now began to enjoy themselves to
their hearts' content. As the automobile hurriedly cleared the town
they yanked out their guns and gave the party ahead what is sometimes
known as what for, or a piece of their collective minds. The revolvers
spoke eloquently in Mr. Lamb's ears. He heard the whistle of bullets
going by at full speed, and he knew that those self-same bullets were
busily looking for them. This knowledge brought him scant satisfaction.

"Our two new escorts," he observed to his daughter, "seem to
have an even greater capacity for anger than that other chap. Do you
know why they're trying to murder us all?"

"Well, major, his daughter called back to him, "this automobile
happens to be loaded to the scuppers with gin and whisky, and it seems
that our guilty secret is known to practically the entire universe."

"I knew nothing about it," replied Mr. Lamb, lurching heavily against
Sandra.

"You're the 'practically' part," said Hebe. "Now everybody knows
except possibly an old gentleman on the extreme peak of Mount Shasta."

"Does it so happen," continued Mr. Lamb, as the automobile
skidded around a corner and the shooting died away, "that a few samples
are lying within easy reach?"

Hebe produced a bottle from a side pocket and passed it to her father.
Mr. Lamb received the gin with undisguised relief.

"I might as well be poisoned as shot," he remarked, raising the
bottle to his lips. "If I must meet death face to face I'd prefer to be
wearing a broad, fatuous smile."

"You're not alone in your preference," said Sandy "My throat is parched
with panic."

Mr. Lamb handed her the bottle.

"No foolishness, remember," he warned her. "This is to be serious drinking."

Sandra gulped a few swallows of extremely vile gin, relinquished
the bottle to Hebe and turned her deep, passionate eyes on the man at
her side.

"I'd love to meet death with you," she murmured. "With your
kiss on my lips and our bullet-riddled bodies locked in a last
embrace."

"Bleeding profusely from every pore," added Mr. Lamb. "Hebe, pass me that
bottle quickly. This woman is turning me numb."

Mr. Lamb drank deeply, clinging with one hand to theswaying car.
Sandra relieved him of the bottle and followed his example. Melville
Long was too busy to drink. If there was one thing that young man knew
it was roads. In his own roadster he had explored the highways and
byways of the entire state. He was in the way of being an animated road
map. He now called on his knowledge and played a little trick on the
state troopers, still hidden from view by a bend in the road.

Turning the car sharply, he drove it at full speed up what
appeared to be a private driveway leading to a farmhouse. The road
curved round the house and continued surprisingly on through a field of
corn, down a short but steep incline, followed the arc of a meadow, and
at last lost itself in the shadows of a forest. It was not a road for a
large, heavy automobile, but Mr. Long made it so to-day. Once in the
forest he stopped the car and silently took the bottle from Hebe. When
he removed it from his lips it was good only for disposal. Hebe
produced another one and passed it back to het father. Melville Long
got out and listened. For the moment they seemed safe from pursuit.

"The rear mudguards have been dented by five bullets, and there
are two holes in the body," he announced with his usual optimistic
smile. " It's lucky they didn't hit the trunk. The thing's full of
grog."

"An act of God," breathed Sandra.

Daylight was growing thin, and the late summer night was about
to open for business. Mr. Lamb was making inroads in the new bottle.
The gin was taking effect. He could hardly have felt better.

"Melville," he asked, "would you mind telling me the name of
that near customer of yours? A shade of memory has just passed across
my rapidly receding brain."

"Name of Brickett," Long answered a little bitterly. "Seemed to be a pleasant
sort of man."

"Oh, he is," Mr. Lamb continued. "He's one of the pleasantest
and most progressive bootleggers in the neighbourhood. I've done
business with him myself."

An expression of infinite pity welled up in Hebe's eyes as she regarded her
future husband.

"Darling," she said, "you've proved yourself far beyond any
reasonable doubt, and what you've proved is that you're the world's
worst bootlegger barring none."

"I'm not even that," the young man answered moodily. "Haven't sold even one
bottle yet. Didn't ever get started."

"And what, may I ask, was the reason for all this illicit enterprise?" asked
Mr. Lamb.

Melville looked helplessly at Hebe, and she put her hand on his.

"Well, you see, major," she explained. "We were trying to get
married and it was all my fault. I suggested the idea to this billiard
ball with a view to obtaining quick and ample funds. I thought it would
be better than his just doing nothing. He absolutely refused to ruin
me."

Mr. Lamb looked at the pair with sad, reproachful eyes.

"He's absolutely ruined me," he said at last. "And between you,
you have made us all eligible for full membership in the Atlanta
Country Club. Your short cut to matrimony leads but to the jug. If you
succeed in getting me out of this fix alive I'll carry you both in my
arms to the nearest church and not leave the place until you are
married to a turn."

"Let's have a drink on that," suggested Sandy. "It sounds like a sporting
proposition to me."

The second bottle went the way of the first, and a third was
pressed into service. This time they switched to whisky with the aid of
a corkscrew attached to a versatile pocket-knife in the possession of
Melville Long. Merely as a matter of interest Mr. Lamb also sampled
this unworthy liquor, then leaned back against the seat.

"Damn the torpedoes," he quoted to his probable son-in-law. "Get me back to
my bed, and I'll settle a fortune on Hebe."

He rested his head on Sandra's shoulder and became a very quiet
and contented man. As the car sped through the woods slumber claimed
him for her own. Sandra, too, for lack of anything better to do,
dropped into a light sleep, and failed to notice how heavy the head on
her shoulder was growing. Hebe and Long kept their eyes to the front.

Some time later when the automobile drew up at an
innocent-looking roadside garage to replenish the nearly exhausted
supply of petrol, the pair continued sleeping. Nor did either sleeper
awake until the sound of coarse, commanding voices penetrated their
remoteness.

Sandra sat up with a start, only to find that the automobile
was completely surrounded by state troopers. She turned to Mr. Lamb to
inform him of this disheartening fact, then stopped with her mouth
open.

"Hebe," she said in a low voice, "just turn round and look at your father."

Hebe stopped insulting the state troopers and obeyed Sandra's
urgent request. Her mouth also hung suspended. Then she closed it and
swallowed hard several times. Mr. Lamb woke up and looked helplessly
about him. He knew he was something else again, but for the life of him
he could not make out what it was.

"Come out of there," an unpleasant voice broke in. "We want to search the
back of this car."

The man thrust in an inquiring head, then immediately abandoned
his inquiry. It is to be questioned if any man ever changed his plans
so swiftly and radically. His head was no sooner in than it was out.
And no sooner was it out than his voice made horrid sounds.

"May God save us all," he announced. "They've got a live lion
in the back of that car"--and leaping on the nearest motor-cycle, he
disappeared down the road.

"So that's what I am," thought Mr. Lamb with a thrill of pride.
"Well, here's where I assert myself to the limit of my capacity."

With an ear-splitting roar of mock rage, he jumped heavily to
the road and scattered disorder among the troopers. Some of them left
on foot, some of them left on motor-cycles, some of them seemed to have
discarded both methods of leaving in favour of flying. The fact remains
that where there was once a compact little gathering of state troopers,
there was now not a single trooper. A few abandoned motor-cycles
remained behind, but had it not been for these therewas no evidence
that a state trooper had ever been within miles of the spot. High up on
the top of the petrol pump the garage owner looked on the scene of
desolation and felt very lonely indeed. Nor would he come down in spite
of the urgings of Sandra and Hebe and the apparent amiability of the
lion. They left the man aloft, and drove noisily down the road,
everyone talking at once save Mr. Lamb, who was practising up on his
growls and modestly receiving the congratulations of his three
companions in flight.

Then Melville Long, without much effort, conceived another
bright idea. He drove swiftly and directly to the sea coast--to a place
of sand and pines, where a secluded hotel dreamed away a peaceful,
fragrant existence among the trees that for ever held in their arms the
far-off throb of the surf. The lights were out in the hotel when the
automobile rolled up the gravel drive. They had previously decided what
they were going to do with Mr. Lamb. The lion was to become a dog. They
had figured out exactly how to do it. Mr. Lamb alone was sceptical. He
failed to see how he could compress himself into a dog, no matter how
hard he squeezed. However, since the party had decided to make a dog of
him, he was perfectly willing to co-operate to the best of his ability.
It had taken nearly half a case of liquor to get him into this pliable
frame of mind. He was now a trifle unsteady on his feet. Instead of
stepping quietly out of the automobile he fell through the door held
open by Sandra, and spread himself over the drive.

"Come on, major," pleaded Hebe. " This will never do. Wait till we get
our rooms."

The thought of a comfortable bed gave the lion the strength to
rise. Then began the transformation. As if they had previously
rehearsed the scene, each member of the party bore down on Mr. Lamb
with an auto-mobile robe. In these they completely muffled him. Even
Melville Long's raincoat was pressed into service.

"Now squeeze yourself together, major," his daughter urged him.
"That's the boy. Squeeze hard, hump your back and walk low to the
ground."

The young lady was red with exertion as she tied the robes
about the contorted form of the lion. From time to time Sandra was
forced to retire as her mirth got the better of her. Low pants and
grunts issued from the lion. Only his nose and eyes were now visible,
his tail having been firmly strapped to his stomach. From the blankets
his eyes peered out wistfully -- hopefully -- upon his three companions.
Sandy could not meet those eyes bearing the mute question of, "Do I
look much like a dog?"

When she had finished her operations, Hebe stepped back and surveyed her
handiwork.

"He doesn't look much like a dog," she admitted, "but then
again, he doesn't look much like a lion, and after all that's what we
want."

"He doesn't look like anything else on the face of God's
world," pronounced Melville Long. "We've got as much right to call him
a dog as any other animal."

"Now, major," continued Hebe, "remember this, and for heaven's
sake don't laugh. You're a sick dog and an extremely self-effacing one.
You're shy and you don't like strangers. Now show us how you can walk.
Just think of a beetle and crawl along."

Thinking hard of a beetle, Mr. Lamb crouched to the ground and,
hunching up to his utmost, took a few trial steps. The effect was
irresistible. It was heightened by the obvious earnestness of the lion.
The three witnesses of this odd scene sat down on the running-board of
the automobile and clung to their stomachs. Sandra was aching all over.
And when the lion peered wanly back at them over his shoulder for some
indication of approval, she collapsed into Hebe's arms.

"Come on everybody," said Hebe in a low voice. "I've taken a
lot of trouble with that lion, now we've got to get him in. That will
do very well, major," she continued, going over to the crouched and
muffled object. "Just keep up the harmless deception till we reach our
rooms."

Collecting several suit-cases containing nothing but gin and
whisky, Long rang the hotel night-bell and waited on the broad veranda
until a light appeared in the reception room. When a sleepy-eyed clerk
with bushy hair and a large, smooth, well-fed face appeared at the
door, the young man made known his needs and was invited to enter with
his party.

"Ah, yes," Long said to his clerk in as nonchalant a voice as
he could muster, when the robed lion made his mincing entrance. " I'd
forgotten our most important member--one sick dog. I take personal
charge of him myself."

From behind his counter the clerk looked in astonishment at Mr. Lamb,
who cast his eyes down and gazed demurely at the floor.

"Do you say that's a dog?" the clerk demanded.

Melville Long laughed falsely as Hebe bent over her father and gave him
a pat of encouragement.

"Of course he's a dog," put in Sandy. "What would you call him if he isn't
a dog?"

"Well, miss," replied the clerk thoughtfully, " I don't rightly
know just what I'd call him. He's unlike anything I ever saw before, or
ever hope to see again. Are you certain he's all right? This is a very
quiet hotel, you know. It's a sort of retreat for nervous
persons--wrecks."

Everyone, including Mr. Lamb, felt that they had come to the
right place. As Melville Long was signing the register in such a way
that Hebe became his sister and Sandra Rush her friend, Mr. Lamb
suddenly remembered his daughter's admonition about laughing. No sooner
had he remembered this than he was seized with an uncontrollable desire
to laugh. His legs gave way completely, and, sinking to the floor, his
body shook with suppressed mirth as a gasping noise escaped his lips.

With blotter in hand the clerk forgot every other consideration in his
interest in the convulsed animal.

"What's wrong with him now?" he asked.

Long, studiously averting his eyes from the great, quivering hulk at his
feet, looked impassively at the clerk.

"A bit of a chill, I guess," he replied. "It's the night air. A
very delicate dog, that, and an expensive one. Only a few in
captivity--I mean, only a few grow to manhood."

"Or attain their majority," put in Hebe sarcastically.

She bent tenderly down over the now hysterical lion and gave him
a vicious jab in the ribs, from which the poor creature grunted so
explosively that the clerk jumped back.

"There, there, Fifi," she said. "Be a good doggie or you'll get no nice warm
medicine to make you sleep."

At the inappropriate appellation of Fifi, Sandra broke down
completely. Throwing her arms on the counter she hid her head in them
and rocked her body to and fro in agony. The clerk scratched his mop of
a head in perplexity, looked closely at the register, then giving
everything up as hopeless, led the way to the rooms.

This entailed the mounting of several flights of stairs, a
difficult task for Mr. Lamb in his present strapped and highly
compressed condition. To add to his discomfort his robes began to slip
off, and Nebe and Sandra were forced to hold them on as he dragged
himself up the interminable stairs. Once the clerk looked back, and the
sight he caught of the straining lion was enough to keep him from
looking back again.

When finally the door had closed behind the mystified man, Mr.
Lamb burst his bonds and lay exhausted on the floor. Sandra flung
herself on the bed and Hebe sank down in a chair. From the bed came a
series of muffled gasps. Sandra was still at it. Mr. Lamb, trailing
robes behind him, walked to the bed and gently spanked the prostrate
form of Sandra. Gentle as it was, the spanking was sufficiently firm to
bring her back to sobriety. She sat up on the bed, then suddenly threw
her arms round the lion's neck.

"Fifi!" she cried. "Fifi, us girls must stick together."

Mr. Lamb drew back and, looking at his daughter, made it clear
by a wave of his paw that he desired to retire. Sandra was all for
sleeping with her Fifi, but compromised with tucking him into bed. This
he permitted her to do with bad grace.

"I don't quite like sleeping with a drunken lion, even though
he is your father," Melville Long told Hebe in a low voice. "He's
gentle enough now, but suppose he should dream he was back in the
jungle? He might make a meal out of me and never even remember it."

"The major," replied Hebe with dignity, "is very careful about
the quality of the food he consumes. One bite out of you, and his jaws
would automatically cease to function."

With this little parting speech Hebe led Sandra to their own
room. Sandra blew a kiss to her Fifi, who gazed back at her with large
glassy eyes.

In spite of the precautions taken by Hebe the next morning to
lock the sleeping lion in before they went down to breakfast, the
chambermaid, after repeated knocking, entered the room with no
difficulty by means of her master key. It is to be doubted if even God
clearly understood her prayer, so incoherent were her ideas when she
pulled down the rumpled bed clothing and came face to face with a lion.
Even then she did not move. The terrible sight had robbed her limbs of
volition. It was not until the lion awoke and gave her a lazy cuff on a
place usually associated with juvenile chastisement that she thought
about going. As she left the room her limbs moved jerkily, as if she
were walking with snowshoes attached to her feet.

"There's a lion in 46," she informed the clerk. " He's asleep and he has
a mouth."

The day clerk smiled indulgently at the maid's terror, the night
clerk having omitted to give him an account of the late arrivals of the
previous night.

"Yes, I know," he replied soothingly. "There's an elephant in 82. Go up and
give him his bath."

The maid liked her job, so she did not stop to argue, but within
a surprisingly short time a rumour was circulated about that among its
other distinguished guests the hotel also entertained a lion. Support
was given to this rumour when at noontime an order was telephoned from
46 to send up half a dozen large steaks. The order was duly delivered
and consumed, but the waiter who delivered the steaks had no
opportunity to see the consumer. When Sandra, Hebe, and Mr. Long
appeared in the dining-room for luncheon the kitchen was thrown into an
even more feverish state of speculation. A sick dog, no matter how
rapid his recovery, could not possibly eat six large steaks. Therefore
it stood to reason that the dog was not a dog at all, but a lion.

For the remainder of the afternoon Sandra read the newspaper to
Mr. Lamb, who alternately drank and drowsed. When it was about time for
dinner she departed, promising to provide bountifully for him on her
return. Not being Hebe, she forgot to lock the door.

It did not take many minutes for Mr. Lamb to become terribly,
terribly lonely. He crawled out of his bed and wondered what he could
do with himself.

"Can't do much with a lion," he thought discontentedly. "Nobody wants you
around. Nobody understands."

He had been cooped up in the house all day. A bit of a walk
would do him a world of good. It was dark now and almost everybody was
dressing for dinner, his party having gone down early in order to tend
to his needs. He did not doubt for a minute that he could get himself
out of the hotel without being observed by a single human eye.

Mr. Lamb went to the door and tried the knob. It turned easily
under the pressure of his paws. He was out of the room in a moment.
Now, the hall was a narrow hall, and Mr. Lamb had been perfectly right
in assuming that the majority of the guests of the hotel would be in
their rooms dressing for dinner. Another thing, Mr. Lamb's tail was
long and large. And this long tail thumped imperatively against the
doors on either side, as Mr. Lamb made his stately progress down the
hall. It was an interesting study of human reactions to the unexpected
presence of a lion.

The first summons of the lion's tail was answered by an elderly
gentleman wearing horn-rimmed glasses and an undershirt. To this
gentleman Mr. Lamb bowed apologetically. For a moment the old fellow
did not stir. He peered myopically at the lion as if disbelieving the
evidence of his eyes, then closed the door slowly as suspicion grew to
certainty. The other guests were more expeditious in their reactions.
One lady hurrying out to dinner unfortunately received the lion's tail
full in the pit of her stomach, and was toppled to the floor. Her
terror was heightened by Mr. Lamb's elaborate attempts to show her that
the whole incident had been purely accidental. Her screams caused other
doors to open, and the lion was discovered in the act of what appeared
to be an attack on a prostrate woman, but which in reality was nothing
more than a courteous endeavour to make gentlemanly reparations for an
unavoidable occurrence.

What had once been a mysterious rumour now became an appalling
fact. Few guests appeared at dinner that night. They preferred to
remain hungry but safe, behind locked and barricaded doors. Not quite
satisfied with this precaution some of the more painstaking guests were
later unwillingly hauled forth from under beds and the depths of
closets.

During this brief period the hotel was decidedly no place for nervous people,
although it was occupied by many.

Not altogether unaware of the disturbance he had created, Mr.
Lamb made an exit through a side door and was now wandering pensively
about in the pines. At last he came to the sea and poised himself on a
rock. It was a beautiful night--a night of stars, silence, and beguiling
breezes, laden with the healing scent of salt and pine.

A man and a maid, new to the place, but obviously not to each other, were
walking along the beach.

"What a lovely spot for a statue," exclaimed the maid, pointing to the lion
motionless on the rock.

"Funny," said the man, "we haven't seen it on any of the picture postcards."

They hurried up to the lion and examined it in the darkness.

"Remarkably lifelike," murmured the maid.

"And so are you," said the man, leaning against the lion's flanks and taking
the maid in his arms.

Mr. Lamb promptly sat down and the couple slid to the rocks.

"Did you push it over?" asked the maid.

"God, no," whispered the man. "The damn thing's alive."

After this they covered their heads and lay perfectly still,
each one wondering about how much of the other remained undevoured.
When at last they gathered enough courage to look up, the lion was
gone. That night they conducted themselves with a certain amount of
discretion.

Mr. Lamb found the hotel in a condition of frantic activity.
During his absence the state troopers had appeared, this time fortified
with a machine-gun. He was just in time to see his automobile bearing
Hebe, Sandra, and Long dash madly down the driveway. Troopers were
rushing from all directions, and the machine-gun was brought into
action. The troopers had no intention of getting too close to the lion
they assumed to be in the car.

And Mr. Lamb was equally reluctant to be left alone with a
machine-gun and a chorus of state troopers. He longed for the company
of his friends. Casting dignity to the winds, he uttered a loud roar of
protest and doubling his body under him made the gravel fly.

"Run, lion, run," he urged himself. " Prove yourself now."

Gravel sprayed out behind him. His tail was close to the ground.
This did not prevent it from being slightly nicked by a machine-gun
bullet.

The car was waiting for him at the end of the drive, and
without stopping for the formality of opening the door he lurched over
the side. Theautomobile jumped ahead and continued hurriedly along the
road.

"Off again, major," said Sandra resignedly. " How's your head?"

Mr. Lamb was not worrying about his head. His thoughts lay with his tail.



CHAPTER XIX
ABOVE THE BATTLE


SANDRA looked up from her drum. "It's a shame we haven't a camera,"
she observed. It was.

Mr. Lamb was lying majestically beside an uprooted tree. Its
reaching branches still drew vital sap that nourished fresh green
leaves. The tawny coat of the lion was splashed with pointed shadows.
They shifted over the great, still body as small, inquisitive breezes
searched through the arms of the fallen tree.

Round the tip of the lion's tail was bound a once dainty but
now bedraggled brassiere. Undoubtedly it had once been becoming to its
wearer. Despite this fact it failed to add to the dignity of the lion.
Sandra had insisted on sacrificing this restraining influence for the
protection of the bullet-chipped tail.

The silence of the forest was unbroken save by the sporadic
throbbing of the drum upon which Sandra practised when the spirit moved
her. The sound of the drum lent a barbaric note to this already
sufficiently fantastic woodland scene.

Through a rift in the trees a green world unrolled far below
them. The slanting sun sent a flood of gold along the path of a winding
river. There were farm-houses down there, pasture lands and meadows.
The quiet of evening seemed to have fallen over forest, field, and
farm. From where they were sitting they looked the clouds in the face.
Caught in the rays of the setting sun they fell burning down the sky.

Mr. Long was wandering leggily about in his drawers. Sandra and
Hebe, from half to two-thirds naked themselves, were sitting
cross-legged on the ground and endeavouring to make up for their lack
of raiment by fashioning garlands of wild flowers for their hair.
Sandra had promised the lion one for himself, but the lion, without
troubling to move his massive head merely rolled his large,
disapproving eyes in her direction, then returned to the contemplation
of the gold and green world in which he found himself.

All had been well rained upon. A heavy shower had wet them to
the skin. Garments both dainty and ludicrous were decorating the limbs
of neighbouring trees.

"I find it fresh as the deuce," complained Melville Long, shivering
convincingly in his drawers.

Sandra laid aside her garland and, picking up her drumsticks, made an
enthusiastic noise.

The beating of the drum throbbed weirdly through the silence of
the forest. From afar a wandering naturalist heard the broken rhythm
and pictured again in his mind's eye a certain clearing in a jungle on
a distant tropic isle.

"Strange sound to hear in this part of the world," he thought
aloud, as he put some utterly useless-looking stones into his pack and
resumed his way.

Back on the mountain top Hebe was asking questions.

"What becomes of the major's clothes when he turns into things?" she
demanded.

The lion looked interested. This subject touched him vitally.

"What becomes of all of him?" asked Sandra. "His clothes must go the way
of all flesh."

"No," said Hebe. "His arms and legs and things turn into the
corresponding parts of the animal he's exploiting at the moment, but
it's different with his clothes. They have to go somewhere, because
they always come back."

Sandra puzzled over this problem a few minutes, then her face brightened.

"I know what becomes of his clothes," she announced. "They naturally turn
into fur, feathers, or scales as the case may be."

"But there's his skin to be considered," replied Hebe.

Mr. Lamb did not entirely approve of the drift of the
conversation. To him it seemed hardly proper that these two young
ladies should sit there as if he were not present, and dispassionately
consider his skin and the various parts of his body. He gave a low
cough of protest, but the girls continued.

"His skin remains his skin," Sandra explained. "Sometimes
stretched, at others shrunken. His clothes merely form the decoration."

"Well, I wish to God I could get my hand in the pockets of his trousers
right now," Melville Long put in earnestly.

His wish was fathered by the realisation that the money in his
own trousers pockets was running low. Only an emergency fund remained,
a small one.

To obtain food and supplies they had been forced to resort to
rather high-handed methods. These methods had been as simple as they
were successful. Mr. Lamb had merely presented himself at the local
country store in the little village at the base of the mountain. He did
not have long to wait. Everybody went away just as soon as they could
and stayed away. Sandra then appeared with a list prepared by the
efficient Hebe, and, with this list before her, deliberately selected
the articles desired.

The drum had not been among the items on the slip of paper. The
drum had been left behind by a member of the local band. Its existence
had completely slipped his memory in the press of departure. One of
Sandra's many suppressed desires had always been the mastery of the
drum, so seeing one conveniently at hand she made it her own. Some day,
she promised herself, she would also take up the fife. One thing at a
time. Beating the drum very badly indeed, but with great contentment,
she had preceded the lion through the village and up the mountain-side.
The lion had carried the bundle of provisions. Through the slits in
their blinds the village's entire population had reviewed this
incredible procession with bewitched eyes, and prayed quite
fundamentally to their variously conceived God. Needless to say both
the lion and the lady were slightly drunk--not much, but just enough to
make them believe they were convulsingly amusing.

For five days now they had been, as it were, on location.
Having found the sea-coast inhospitable they had gone to the other
extreme and taken to the mountains. Through the uncanny driving of Mr.
Long and the presence of Mr. Lamb they had eluded the state troopers,
but not entirely escaped their memory. The automobile had been left
concealed at the base of the mountain, but already, unknown to its
owners, it had been discovered and reported. Several intrepid troopers
had reconnoitred the position of the fugitives, and certain plans were
at this moment well under way.

All these developments would have been highly disturbing to the
lion and his three companions, happy as they were in their false
security, had they, but been aware of them.

That night they finished the last bottle of whisky and
ingeniously hid the remaining case of gin in a hollow tree. Mr. Long
was now taking no chances. He had agreed to get them alive out of the
mess into which he had plunged them. No less than the sun-tanned hand
of Hebe depended upon the success of his endeavours.

The lion placed his head on the fallen tree and stretched his
massive limbs. A whistling sigh escaped his lips. Sandra, trailing an
automobile robe, crept close to him and rested her head on a soft spot
just back of his left foreleg. From within the body of the lion came
the strong, steady beat of his great heart. The sound of it gave the
girl a feeling of confidence and safety. Once she tickled his ribs, and
the lion, raising his head from the leaves, gently but firmly nipped
the ear that had been the cause of so much trouble. Sandra gave a
little scream and draped her arms round the lion's neck.

On the other side of the embers Hebe vainly attempted to
interest Mr. Long in her plans. Mr. Long strove manfully to listen to
the prattling girl, but sleep was among those things that he held most
sacred. The last thing he remembered was a long string of unpleasant
names that Hebe was muttering monotonously in his ear. The sound of her
voice helped to lull him off to sleep.

In the darkness of the forest one of the lion's large yellow
eyes shone brightly as if it were reflecting the beams from a sharply
chiselled star hanging directly overhead above the trees. Silence...
only the voice of Sandra singing softly to the lion.

"Hebe," she whispered suddenly. "How's this: The lion and the lamb lie
down together--actually in one."

"A little too pat to be funny," replied Hebe. "Tell that great
hulk of an animal good-night for me. My little prize package has gore
bye-bye."

"So has mine," said Sandra, and presently she emulated his example.

According to his custom, Mr. Lamb arose at dawn next morning and
took a stroll through the forest. He knew of a certain mountain stream
in which he could partially submerge his body. It was a refreshing
thing to do in the quiet of the morning. He would lie there and listen
to the birds and allow an old squirrel to examine him from a safe
distance. Each morning the distance had decreased. To-day the old
fellow was almost familiar.

Mr. Lamb lay quite still and let the water swirl and chuckle
about his haunches. No trains to catch. No bonds to sell. No orderly
rows of houses. No meaningless words to say. Not even the sound of a
motor-car or the smell of petrol. Lamb's nerves were resting, taking on
a protective coating of fat. He realised now that his life with Sapho
had never been restful. There had always been a debilitating
undercurrent of irritation. No room for laughter and heedless
relaxation. No delirious unleashing of passion. No companionship in
sleep. Like so many secretively immoral women, she had hidden her true
nature behind a screen of diffidence and niceness. With her one could
never be vulgarly natural any more than one could be self-forgetfully
passionate. She was bad without knowing how to be bad. Life had entered
her only a little way. It had never really settled in her body nor
given animation to her brain. He himself had been only half alive. He
had accepted things altogether too easily, and too consistently avoided
trouble. Perhaps if he had been different Sapho would have been
different. However, he knew for certain that he never could have
brought himself to mingle with the Woodbine Players or to talk
symbolically about sex as if he were actually feeling it with his
hands. The thought of sex brought Sandra to his mind. There was a
woman--sex with lightness and laughter and with other skylights of
interest to let the sunshine through.

Thinking of this beautiful, bare-armed young sinner, the lion
rose so abruptly that he startled the squirrel into a frenzy of
precautionary measures. It was high time the camp awoke. Shaking the
glinting beads of water from his flanks he passed with the
consciousness of nobility and power between the trees.

The camp was empty--deserted. No clothing hung from the limbs of
the trees. Even the automobile robes were gone. With growing suspicion
and alarm the lion nosed about the place. The world, which had been so
cheerfully ordered only a few minutes ago, was now a wilderness of vast
discontent. Then his eyes fell on a note pinned to a tree. It had been
scrawled hastily and was signed by Hebe. Mr. Lamb read:

  _Surprised and captured. The big stiffs are taking
  us to Brookford to visit the judge. Rescue suggested. They have no
  evidence, the crooks!...Curses. Hebe._

Then the lion descended from the mountain. As he crashed through the
trees and sprang to the road he was a sight to inspire terror in the
hardiest of souls. An automobile passing casually by stopped within a
foot of the lion, then started again and went into reverse. Mr. Lamb
did not even notice the car. Hebe had suggested rescue, and he fully
intended to act on her suggestion. Was he not the monarch of all he
surveyed? Or was that title a mere piece of flattery? He would soon
find out. With powerful strides he disappeared down the road to
Brookford, some five miles distant.

A lion is seldom crowded, that is, a lion on the loose. Round
him one usually finds a considerable quantity of unoccupied territory.
As Mr. Lamb passed down the main street of Brookford no one got in his
way. What traffic there was withdrew to the pavements or turned into
side streets. An earnest gentleman drove his car clean through the
front window of a furniture store, where he partially concealed himself
beneath the ruins of a completely demolished bed. A horse harnessed to
a farm wagon was found later in the wagon itself, and had to be driven
home by a more courageous steed.

Utterly ignoring the small furore he was occasioning, Mr. Lamb
padded down the street and entered the court-house, in front of which
he recognised his parked automobile. Behind his ponderous desk the
judge was having a hard time establishing a case against the youthful
prisoners. He was rapidly losing heart. No liquor had been found in the
car or at the camp, no liquor had ever been delivered or actually seen.
On a charge of bootlegging he could find no plausible grounds for
holding them for general sessions. He was beginning to dislike state
troopers as heartily as those they had captured and dragged to court
without a scrap of evidence. For the twentieth time the judge was
trying to discover what had become of the liquor.

"Now, miss," he was saying, "what did you say your name was?"

"Doon," replied Hebe promptly, "Lorna Doon."

"Well, Miss Doon," continued the judge--who officially was not a judge
at all but merely a recorder and not as _au courant_ as he might have
been--"your face looks honest enough. Why don't you help us out and
tell us what you did with the liquor?"

"Why should I help you out to help us in?" asked Hebe with her sweetest
smile.

The judge looked annoyed and shifted his discouraged eyes to Sandra.

"Will you make a clean breast of it?" he demanded.

"Why, your honour," said Sandra, dropping her eyes. "What a thing to ask!"

"What do you mean?" asked the judge uneasily. "I wouldn't like to say,"
the girl replied.

"Do you know what you did with the liquor?" repeated the judge,
his face growing gradually red as he gazed into Sandra's eyes, now
alarmingly raised to his.

"In view of the fact that we drank the liquor, your honour,
your question seems rather indelicate," the modest young lady replied.

At this moment a deep growl sounded in the rear of the
court-room. This growl was followed by a general and concentrated drive
on the windows on the part of every single spectator present. The judge
was about to rap for order when he stopped, with gavel poised in
mid-air, as he found himself gazing into the open mouth of an enraged
lion. Never had he seen such a furious animal, and never had he felt
less like seeing one. Abandoning his prisoners to the lion and the
mercy of God, he withdrew with his attendants to his chambers.

The lion and his grateful companions wandered round the
deserted court-room for a few minutes, then emerged from the building
into the equally deserted street. Leisurely climbing into the
automobile, they drove off unmolested. Nor were they molested
throughout the remainder of their journey back to their original point
of departure, the Lamb residence--a place which its owner had come to
fear he might never see again.

"Pardon our lion, Thomas," said Hebe breezily, as the aged
servant hurried out to meet them. "He's not a bad sort at all if you
like lions."

"Never had much of a chance to get acquainted," replied Thomas. "Is there
anything I can do for this one, Miss Hebe?"

"Yes," said Hebe. "Give the poor creature all the meat you can
find, either alive or dead in the kitchen. He's been eating beans for
the last five days, and he might start in on us if we don't do
something about it."

Thomas hurried away, and Mr. Lamb went to show himself to the turtle, who
as usual was not impressed.



CHAPTER XX
A DECIDEDLY DIFFERENT SOMETHING


FOR some weeks now Mr. Lamb had been quite himself. This morning
he wished he was not, for he was presently due at court to defend
himself in a divorce suit brought against him by the revengeful
Sapho. That gracious lady was at last striking for freedom. And she was
striking in the worst possible way as far as Mr. Lamb was concerned.
The summons had informed him that he should be both ready and willing
to defend himself against charges of aggravated adultery, witchcraft,
animalism, mental anguish, attempted murder, torture, and non-support.
When Lamb read the official wording of the disagreeable document his
brain swam. He had never before realised he had been such a versatile
blackguard. How that woman must have suffered! And how she was going to
let the world know about it!

Sandra Rush had been named as the other half of the adultery
charge, and although she was most uninterestingly innocent, she was
highly satisfied with the trend of events. Her conduct greatly added to
Mr. Lamb's uneasiness. She assumed that she was an adultress and acted
the part so well that the poor man began to believe it must be true.
Frequently she spoke of their guilty love with downcast eyes and
generously declared that she fully intended to share at least half of
the blame. When Mr. Lamb appealed to her better nature she accused him
of trying to cast her aside like a broken reed, and swore violently to
God that she would sue him for chronic assault, seduction, and breach
of promise. As his own daughter stoutly supported Sandra's charges he
held his peace and relapsed into sweating silence. It was all terribly
upsetting.

Mr. Lamb had received notice of the divorce on the morning
after his return from the mountains. He had awakened that morning quite
himself and fully clad. His clothes were in a state of great disorder,
and a week's growth of whiskers decorated his face. When he had
finished reading the document he somehow wished himself back on the
quiet, wind-fanned summit of that mountain retreat, where life had been
so pleasantly natural and simplified. Already the news-papers were
beginning to discuss the amazing charges brought by the wife of a
prominent financier against her husband. Apparently this
much-sinned-against woman was willing to take the reporters into her
confidence at any hour of the day or night. Almost overnight Mr. Lamb
had become a national figure. His picture appeared in various papers,
but not so large as Mrs. Lamb's.

Only one ray of light penetrated the encircling gloom. Nothing
had developed from the bootlegging charge. It seemed that the
recorder's report must have been of a nature to discourage further
investigation. Flare backs of this episode also appeared in print. Mr.
Lamb's name and that of Sandra Rush were still more firmly linked. The
fact that the woman in the case was an underwear model was not
neglected. News was scarce at that time, and Mr. Lamb and his affairs
were received with thanks by the press.

Hebe and Melville Long accompanied Mr. Lamb to the court.
Sandra refused to appear, feeling that her absence would give the
impression of an admission of guilt. Looking insinuatingly at Mr. Lamb
she assured him that she could never face the world after all that had
taken place between them. An expression of indignant protest escaped
Mr. Lamb's lips.

"That night you escaped from my window," whispered Sandy. "Wow!"

"Ah!" said Hebe with a deep intake of breath.

"For God's sake, Hebe," her father pleaded. "Don't you see that
this girl, this female snake in the grass, intends deliberately to ruin
me?"

"She'll be the making of you, major," said Hebe calmly.

"And I wouldn't call people snakes and things," put in Sandra.
"It doesn't sound well coming from you, and besides, you're not out of
the woods yet."

"I wish to heaven I was back in them," fervently replied the much beset man.

Now the judge was regarding Mr. Lamb with amused interest. Mr.
Lamb was aware that the judge was not alone in his scrutiny. Mrs. Lamb
at her lawyer's table alone refused to look upon her husband. She was
artistically dressed for the occasion. Her lawyer was addressing the
court.

"Your honour," he said a little self-consciously, because of
the ridiculous nature of the charges he had to press, " I shall prove
that my client's husband not only turned into a horse, a seagull, a
kangaroo, a goldfish, a dog, a cat, in order named, but also that he
actually had the temerity to assume the form of a lion--a dangerous and
destructive animal."

The judge's smile of amusement deepened.

"Sounds like a lot of bedtime stories to me," he observed. "Why don't you
establish adultery and call it a day?"

"My client insists on justice," replied the lawyer. "We have made no charge
in our brief that we are not able to prove."

"If she insists on proving all her charges this case will become
a permanent institution I'm afraid," said the judge. "Hurry on with the
animal business, and don't make me feel too silly. I'm a serious-minded
man in spite of the things to which I occasionally have to listen."

To Mr. Lamb's horror and surprise his daughter was asked if she
would voluntarily take the stand. In his desperation he clung to her
skirt as the young lady rose eagerly to go to the chair.

"Steady, major," she whispered, "or you'll be having your daughter testifying
in the flimsiest excuse for a breach-clout."

Mr. Lamb released her, and the girl, swinging herself into the
chair, sat smiling innocently upon the judge, after she had taken an
oath she had no intention of keeping. The lawyer for Mrs. Lamb
addressed her.

"Miss Lamb," he asked with the utmost politeness, "what did you first think
when you discovered a horse in your father's bed?"

"Why I naturally drew the conclusion that Sapho had invited him in," she
replied, with compelling candour.

The judge coughed discreetly behind his hand and looked at the
astounded lawyer with eyebrows slightly elevated. The lawyer was in a
state of painful confusion. He would willingly have asked the witness
to step down, but was afraid of the impression such a move would make.
Mrs. Lamb had half risen in her chair and was staring at her daughter
with murder in her eyes.

"I'm a little astray," remarked the judge. "You mentioned
someone by the name of Sapho. I thought your mother's name was Tilly,
Miss Lamb?"

"It really is Mary," Hebe explained with painstaking patience,
"but mother never liked that name. So father always called her Tilly.
She thought Tilly wasn't romantic enough, so to humour her whim I
called her Sapho, because she was always play-acting in father's best
pyjamas, and lying on the floor with--"

The hands of the plaintiff's lawyer were churning about in the
air. His client sat white and trembling at her table. Behind her she
could hear the sound of suppressed laughter.

"I protest," the lawyer spluttered. "The witness is introducing a lot of
irrelevant evidence. Whether Mrs. Lamb's pyjamas--"

"They weren't Mrs. Lamb's pyjamas," broke in Hebe. "I distinctly told you
she sneaked them from my father."

Then the lawyer lost all control.

"Why quibble about it?" he demanded furiously of Hebe. "What
earthly difference does it make whether the pyjamas belong to your
father or your mother?"

"All the difference in the world," replied Hebe,looking
pityingly upon the lawyer. "You see, a woman's pyjamas are built
according to an altogether different method of construction than a
man's. For one thing a woman's pyjamas--"

Laughter in the court-room was now quite general, and, so far as the judge
was concerned, uninterrupted.

"Your honour," said Mr. Wilson, with a hopeless droop of his
shoulders, "if I hear any more about those pyjamas I'll have to
withdraw from the case."

"Very well," replied the judge agreeably. "Let's talk about something else."

Mr. Wilson revived a little and turned once more to the willing
and anxious Hebe. For a certain reason he wanted to establish a date.

"Miss Lamb," he asked, "please answer this question as briefly
as possible: after the appearance of the horse do you remember the
exact date when you next found your father in bed?"

"On the morning of the twenty-fourth," the young girl answered
without a moment's hesitation. "I remember because Leonard Gray was
visiting mother over the week-end, and although she didn't know that I
knew it and--"

"You may step down, Miss Lamb," interrupted the lawyer in a dead voice,
"unless the defence wishes to question you."

The defence did.

"Miss Lamb," asked the legal representative of Hebe's father,
"you can't possibly think of any reason for the viciously conceived
rumour of some innocent intimacy existing between your father and the
woman, Sandra Rush?"

'Hold on," exclaimed the judge, momentarily interrupting work
on a picture he was drawing. "I never heard such a perniciously worded
question in all my born days. Ask it all over again, Mr. Hedges, and
this time don't try to be so subtly leading, or rather, misleading."

"Gladly, your honour," said Mr. Hedges smoothly. "Miss Lamb,
there is, of course, no foundation in fact in the childish gossip that
your father and Miss Rush were ever anything more than nodding
acquaintances --almost hostile?"

"Hold on again," interrupted the judge. "You might be trying to
spare our feelings, Mr. Hedges, but you're not improving a bit. I'm
afraid you'll have to ask that question as if you desired information
rather than confirmation."

"All right," said Mr. Hedges, with ill-humour. "Did this Rush woman and
your father ever misconduct themselves?"

"Jointly or individually?" asked the literal-minded Hebe.

"Jointly," replied the lawyer. "In each other's company and at the same
time and place."

"Well, I wouldn't be surprised," the girl admitted. "Now that
you've made yourself clear I'll have to say that I wouldn't be a bit
surprised. Not before me, of course, but my father is only human and
the Rush woman is so _laissez faire._ Then again, mother was always so
busy. Can't sit up all night and twirl your thumbs, you know."

"She can step down so far as I'm concerned," said Mr. Hedges, turning his
back on the young lady.

The judge removed a handkerchief from his face and looked at Hebe with
brimming eyes.

"They don't seem to want to play with you any more, Miss Lamb,"
he told her. "You may step down with the satisfaction of knowing that
you have been perfectly disastrous to both sides."

Hebe was popular with neither Mrs. nor Mr. Lamb when she returned to her
chair beside the latter.

"What did you want to go and tell lies for?" her father demanded, his
whispered words laden with indignation.

"Wasn't telling lies," replied Hebe. "How do I know what you and
Sandy do with your spare time? I didn't say you did and I didn't say
you didn't."

"No," muttered Mr. Lamb sarcastically. "You did everything but draw a
diagram. And why did you call her that Rush woman?"

"Sounded more desperate," said Hebe. "Anyway, Sandy told me not
to spare her feelings. She wanted to shoulder half the blame for
everything."

Mr. Lamb choked down his wrath. He would have preferred to
choke his imp of a daughter. He turned his eyes on the next witness and
started. The witness was the man who had bought him at the horse show.

"Mr. Rudd," the opposing lawyer was asking, "did you purchase a horse at
a horse show on the twenty-fourth of last month?"

"I thought I did at the time," replied Mr. Rudd.

"Did you notice anything peculiar about the horse when you purchased him?"
continued the lawyer.

"I did, sir," said the witness. " That horse was drunk, dead-drunk and
snoring."

"And where is that horse now, Mr. Rudd?"

Mr. Rudd looked long and searchingly at Mr. Lamb, while that
gentleman returned the look with an ironical eye. Then the farmer
pointed an earthy-looking finger at him.

"Wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't the horse I bought," said Mr. Rudd.

At this the judge slapped his leg and leaned over his desk.

"Pardon me," he remarked, " but did I understand you to say the horse was
dead-drunk?"

"He was, your honour."

"And how about yourself, Mr. Rudd?"

"Sober as a judge, your honour."

"Thanks for the compliment, Mr. Rudd, but do you mean to tell me
you didn't know the difference between that gentleman and a horse?"

"Well, I found him between the shafts, your honour, and the
thing I'd bought for a horse had clean disappeared. Ain't never seen it
since."

Mr. Wilson intervened at this point.

"How did the gentleman explain his presence between the shafts of your
cart, Mr. Rudd?" the lawyer asked.

"Said he was playing horse," replied Mr. Rudd. "Told me a long
cock-and-bull story about how he couldn't break himself of the habit of
playing horse."

Mr. Wilson laughed scornfully and turned to the judge.

"You can see for yourself, your honour," he said, "what a lame excuse that
was under the circumstances."

"There's nothing wrong under the law in playing horse," observed
the judge mildly. "It's rather an odd sort of amusement for a great,
tall man like Mr. Lamb. Still, if he wants to ride a broom or even to
pull a cart he has a perfect right to do so."

He paused for a moment and looked curiously at Mr. Wilson. "Do you actually
believe in this man's story?" asked the judge.

"Certainly, your honour," Mr. Wilson replied. "The witness is on his oath."

"I know all about that," replied the judge impatiently. "I'm not
suggesting perjury, but I've known men who would have taken an oath
that they were seeing snakes and pink elephants and green devils that
existed only in their feverish imaginations. The judge that Mr. Rudd
said he was as sober as, must have been a judge of whisky. That's the
only way to justify his obviously impossible statements. Now, Mr.
Wilson, let's get down to cases. If you can't prove that the defendant
was a horse, you're going to have a great deal harder time trying to
prove that he was a goldfish or a lion. And so far as I'm concerned
it's going to be practically impossible for you to convince me that
that gentleman sitting there with his sweet, innocent young daughter
was ever a kangaroo. This is the silliest divorce case so far that I've
ever tried. It has its amusing side, but I'm not here to be amused. Why
don't you drop all this animal business and press a charge that you can
get your teeth into--something more homelike and
understandable--adultery, for instance?"

"One moment, your honour," said Mr. Wilson hastily. "Listen to this."

The lawyer drew near the rail and spoke in a low voice to the
judge. Both of them looked with interest at Mr. Lamb, who, under the
combined gaze of the two legal minds, began to grow decidedly
uncomfortable.

Suddenly the judge broke down and buried his face in his hands,
his shoulders shook and strangling noises came from between his
fingers. Presently he mopped his face with his handkerchief and fixed
his tearful eyes on the lawyer.

"You're only guessing, Mr. Wilson," said the judge. "And,
besides, you haven't even established the fact that he was a horse.
You'll have to do better than that, or I'll throw this case out of
court."

Mr. Lamb's face was flaming. Strange things were going on
inside him. If his wife had wished to humiliate him her wish was amply
gratified. Through hot eyes he saw that Mr. Rudd's place in the
witness-box had been taken by the woman in charge of Sandra's underwear
shop. His heart sank. Was that scene to be repeated for the benefit of
the public? Mr. Lamb wanted very badly to be somewhere else. He would
gladly have turned to a stone or to any other inanimate object for a
change. Madame was gorgeously arrayed. She seemed to regard the
occasion in the light of a pleasant diversion.

"It was an assault partial," she was saying in answer to some
question the opposing lawyer had put to her. "Not an assault complete.
A moment more and it might have been utter."

"How was the victim of this brutal attack clad?" continued Mr. Wilson.

"The assaulted one was clad in a costume most revealing,"
explained Madam. "An irresistible creation of my own. Should you remove
all of your outer garments, m'sieur, and cut the little that remained
into ribbons, retaining only the smallest possible protection, you
would arrive at something of the same effect."

"Don't try it, Mr. Wilson," put in the judge. "I've stood about enough
for one day."

"What was Mr. Lamb doing?" continued Mr. Wilson, striving to
maintain his dignity in the face of the quietly mirthful court-room.

Madame seemed completely surprised by this question. She
elevated her shoulders eloquently and seemed to be taking the
court-room into her confidence.

"Why, m'sieur," she protested. "What would you do? What would the judge do?
What would any man do under the circumstances?"

"I hate the way that woman talks," observed the judge. "The situation is
sufficiently clear, don't you think, Mr. Wilson?"

But Madame was well launched on her description and would not be denied.
"When I re-entered the room--"

At this point the human elements contained in Mr. Lamb seemed to
crash and to fall into disorder. The little russet man had at last
surpassed all his previous efforts. Either out of pity for Mr. Lamb or
through some caprice of his own, he had changed him into what might be
roughly termed "a combination animal." Lamb had the feathered head of a
large rooster, the body of some strangely designed pre-historic animal
and the tail of a lizard. Not knowing what a sight he presented, he was
able to gain some slight conception from the fact that even his own
daughter shrank from him. The opposing lawyers leaped the rail at the
same instant and took refuge with the judge behind his desk. Their
bulging eyes slanted across its surface as if the three gentlemen were
being strangled. Mrs. Lamb appeared to have swooned. The court-room was
in an uproar. With a strange, whistling gasp Mr. Lamb looked uneasily
about him, then turned and shuffled awkwardly down the aisle. No one
raised a finger to stay his progress.

"I take everything back," said the judge when order had been
restored. "It seems I was all wrong. Do you know what that thing was,
Mr. Wilson?"

"I doubt if anyone does," replied the gentleman.

"Well, whatever it was," continued the judge, "I'm sure your
client cannot be expected to live with it. I wouldn't do so myself for
the world. The papers will be drawn up immediately. This court is
officially adjourned, but those who care to remain until they have
collected their scattered wits are at liberty to do so."

With dignity befitting his exalted office, the judge gathered his robe about
him and withdrew.



CHAPTER XXI
EXIT THE LITTLE RUSSET MAN


WHEN Mr. Lamb caught sight of himself in a store window he jumped three
feet in the air so great was the shock he received. Once more the strange,
whistling sound came from between his beak as he hopped and shuffled
along the street. More than ever now he felt cut off from humanity.
Even the automobiles seemed to shrink from him. What would Sandra think
of him? Would she, too, be revolted like Hebe? He was going to find out.

Sandra, having withdrawn from the swollen ranks of the
employed, was sitting on her front veranda. No one else seemed to be in
sight as Mr. Lamb hopped up the steps and squatted down beside her. He
was breathing wheezily from exertion--wheezing and whistling
distractedly. His lonely, frightened eyes peered questioningly into
Sandra's, then he looked away as if ashamed to meet her gaze. Now that
he was there he wished he had not come.

"Sit down and rest," said Sandra quietly. " Don't you think
you're laying it on a little strong? I stood you as a lion and a
kangaroo without turning a hair. When you were a seagull and a goldfish
I did what little I could to protect your interests. When you were a
cat I actually took you to bed with me. Not satisfied with your past
achievements it now seems that you've begun to make up animals,
combining them, trying to be three animals at once. It's a trifle more
than a potential wife or mistress can stand. I think it's very silly to
make up animals. Have you seen yourself yet? Look."

She took a small mirror from her vanity case and held it up
before Mr. Lamb. With a strangled, gasping squawk he flopped down the
steps and shuffled away as fast as his queer, ill-fashioned legs could
carry him. A thin film seemed to have settled over his eyes. He could
see only dimly. He was totally unfitted for the world in which he found
himself. His heart was heavy, however, with human despair.

Sandra rose quickly from her chair and looked after the
retreating animal. Once she called to him, but Mr. Lamb did not appear
to have heard her. Filled with misgiving for the safety of this
defenceless creature she hurried to Mr. Lamb's home, but he was not
there. Hebe greeted her at the door and gave her an account of what had
taken place at court, after which they sat down and wondered what had
become of Mr. Lamb.

The subject of their speculations knew neither what to do nor
where to go. News of a strange animal being at large spread rapidly
through the countryside. Parties were organised to capture or to kill
this animal. Big, quick-tempered, hard-biting dogs were pressed into
service. The animal was different, therefore it did not belong. It was
the invariable attitude of humanity--destroy what you cannot understand.
Mr. Lamb became a hunted thing.

His trail was picked up on the outskirts of the town. Soon he
heard the hue and cry behind him. Sheer panic weakened his efforts as
he hopped laboriously along. He was about to enter a wood when he spied
a small hut before which a man was sitting, a man with vague, troubled
eyes and a head of matted hair. Mr. Lamb recognised the man. He was the
local half-wit, almost as far removed from his fellow-men as was Mr.
Lamb himself.

When the half-wit saw the winded and hard-pressed creature he
showed neither surprise nor alarm. He rose from the ground, and
approaching Mr. Lamb, looked sympathetically into his dim eyes.
"Tired," he said as if to himself, "and thirsty. Scared near to death."

The sound of pursuit was growing steadily nearer. Three dogs,
nose to the ground, were streaming across the field. Behind them came
the rabble of the town. The half-wit frowned and looked at Mr. Lamb.

"They're after you," he said quietly. "They've been after me for years.
Come along."

Mr. Lamb hopped after him to the hut and drank thirstily when
the man gave him a cup of water. Then the man went out and stood before
the door. In his hand was a heavy stick.

Within a few minutes Mr. Lamb heard the voices of his pursuers
and the snarls of the dogs. The house was surrounded and shouts rang
out.

"Leave the poor creature alone," he heard the half-wit saying. "He's not
hurting anybody, and I won't let you at him."

The dogs were urged forward, and the crowd fell upon the
struggling half-wit. In spite of his terror Mr. Lamb tried to come to
his aid.

"There it is!" a voice shouted "Get him."

A large rock crashed against the side of Mr. Lamb's head and the
strange animal sank down, a crumpled, uncouth mass. A dog worried his
tail, and by his side the half-wit was feebly trying to rise. The crowd
stood over the still animal with a feeling of great accomplishment,
particularly the man who had thrown the rock.

When Mr. Lamb regained consciousness he was lying on a large
marble slab. A group of near-sighted-looking gentlemen were examining
him minutely. One of these gentlemen was clad in white. In his hand was
a long, thin, and extremely business-like knife. Mr. Lamb sat up
abruptly and looked about him. The room in which he found himself was
rigged out as a laboratory. To Mr. Lamb it had the appearance of a
torture chamber. The men seemingly were highly excited. They were
staring at Mr. Lamb with deep interest.

"Oh, I say," said one of them in remonstrating tones, "that was really
too bad of you."

"How too bad?" asked Mr. Lamb, a trifle giddily.

"Well," continued the man, " a moment ago you were a most
remarkable type of animal. Now you're only rather a commonplace sort of
person."

"You're not so exceptional yourself," replied Mr. Lamb, irritated by the
man's manner.

He swung round on the table and addressed another member of the group.

"I wish you would remove the knife from that unreliable-looking
individual's hand," he said. "What are all of you trying to do, anyway,
murder me?"

"No," replied the other. "This a meeting of scientists. We were
just going to find out what manner of animal you were. You seemed to he
quite dead."

"Well, I don't seem quite dead now," said Mr. Lamb.

And I'm not an animal. You'll have to stick that knife into someone else,
I'm afraid. I want to go home. My head hurts."

"But aren't you going to be that way any more?" one of them protested.

"Come, come," urged one. "Snap back for us, won't you."

"All I can say," remarked a third, "is that as you were, you
were a great gain to science, and that as you are, you are not much of
a contribution to the human race."

"Won't you even try?" pleaded a bearded individual. "Come now, make an
honest effort. Try hard. Be an animal."

"Yes," urged still another member of the group. "Pull yourself together."

"And you'll pull me apart," replied Mr. Lamb.

"I'd like to cut him open, anyway," remarked the man with the
knife. "There must be something strange inside him. No one would ever
know."

Mr. Lamb slid hastily from the marble slab.

"Everyone would know," he announced. "If you come a step nearer
with that horrid-looking knife, I'll let out a yell that will bring in
the entire neighbourhood, you cold-blooded, long-faced murderer. You
look like a horse yourself. Why don't you slit your own hide open?"

Mr. Lamb felt better after this little outburst. He walked to
the door with a dignified step, then turned and faced the bewildered
and disappointed scientists.

"The next time I turn into an animal," he announced, "I'm going to call
in an osteopath."

It was quite late when Mr. Lamb reached home. The house seemed
empty. He went directly to his study, and without troubling to switch
on the light sat down in his usual chair. He wanted to rest his eyes to
see if the pain would not leave his head. Through the doors to his
little porch the starlight shone into the room. Presently Mr. Lamb
became aware of the fact that a small red light was glowing steadily
opposite him. He caught the aroma of cigar smoke.

"Are you satisfied?" came a voice through the darkness.

Mr. Lamb recognised the voice, and his heart began to beat a
little more hopefully. He got up and switching on the light, stood
looking down at the little russet man. That cheery individual was
sitting exactly as Mr. Lamb had last seen him. In one hand he held a
half-smoked cigar, in the other a half-consumed high-ball. His umbrella
was neatly arranged on the floor at his side.

"I hope you are," replied Mr. Lamb. " I'm fed up. You've ruined
everything for me, including the zoo." The little russet man smiled.

"Well, Mr. Lamb," he said, " you're all through now. It's done
you a world of good. Respectability almost had you. You could never
have stood the strain."

"I'm not respectable now, God knows," said Mr. Lamb. "I'm the
most talked-about person in the nation. I'm divorced, disgraced, and
forever marked as a freak of nature."

"Do you regret your experiences?" asked the little russet man.

Mr. Lamb thought over the past few months and grinned.

"No," he replied. "Not exactly."

"The world has a short memory," his visitor resumed. "And,
anyway, you should travel for a while. See something new, Mr. Lamb. As
an animal you seemed to have a faculty for getting yourself into
trouble. As a man your life should not prove to be so devoid of
interest. The best side of you is your bad side--bad, I mean, from the
point of view of Mrs. Grundy and her friends. Develop that side. Drink,
eat, love, and laugh to your heart's content. Don't worry about people
who peer through windows. Don't hurt others, but don't let others hurt
you. They'll do it every time if they can get you on the run. The world
envies success-fully unmoral people. Also it hates them. What your
generation refers to as a hangover is not necessarily a mark of shame.
There's plenty of room in the world for a decent-spirited drunkard.
Sobriety is good for certain persons only. You are not one of them.
And, by the way, if I were in your place I'd look up that half-witted
chap who tried to help you out. I find him one of the most likeable
characters in the community."

Mr. Lamb walked over to a table and picked up the decanter. He
was considering the words of his guest. A breeze passed through the
room, and Mr. Lamb, turning, saw the doors to his porch were open.
Evidently the little russet man had passed through them, because he was
no longer present. Only his umbrella remained beside his empty chair,
and as Mr. Lamb stood looking at it the umbrella rose from the floor
and moved slowly across the room.

"Almost forgot it that time," from nowhere in particular came the voice
of the mysterious little fellow.

Mr. Lamb walked out on his porch and sat down. A small hand
slipped through the darkness and came to rest on his. Mr. Lamb sprang
up with a smothered cry of fear.

"For God's sake," he complained, "why is everybody creeping up on me in
the dark? I'm as nervous
as a bug."

"We'll have to do something about that," said Sandra. " Sit down and keep
your shirt on."



CHAPTER XXII
IN THE WAKE


SANDRA and Mr. Lamb were too much in the public eye to get
married, so they agreed to play make-believe. However, Mr. Lamb
had extracted a promise from Sandra in the presence of Hebe and
Melville Long to make him an honest man the moment they reached Paris.

Mr. Lamb had readily consented to go abroad for an indefinite period.

"If I stay here," he had remarked at the breakfast table, where
the suggestion had first been advanced by Sandra, "all my friends will
be sitting around expecting me to turn into something for them. As far
as business is concented, I'm pow. A man who harbours the horrid fear
that at any moment I may become a centipede or a panther is hardly in a
receptive frame of mind to concentrate on a list of securities.
Billings will have to carry on at the office, and Thomas will stand by
the goods here at home."

"I might run over with a contingent of Boy Scouts myself,"
announced Brother Dug. " You'll know when we get there because we'll
all be singing."

"Tell us where you're not going to be," said Hebe, "and we'll go there."

Douglas grinned amiably.

Hebe and Mr Long were married. During the last ten days he had
proved himself useful in procuring the wrong tickets for the right boat
or the right tickets for the wrong boat. The efficient Hebe had at last
been forced to assume the responsibility of getting the party started.
Mr. Long, senior, had been so pleased at the prospect of getting his
son out of the house for some time to come that he had disgorged great
quantities of money.

"I hope that at least you'll be able to prove yourself a father," the old
gentleman had said upon relinquishing the cheque.

The three young people were now pushing Mr. Lamb up the
gang-plank. To outwit the newspaper reporters he was wearing a false
beard above which his eyes peered out guiltily at the world.
Unfortunately, the beard fell off half-way up the gang-plank. He
quickly slipped it into his pocket, leaving part of it sticking out.

"I thought you were wearing a beard, sir," observed his steward when he
had placed the luggage in the state-room.

"No," explained Mr. Lamb. "That was someone seeing me off."

When the steward was about to leave Mr. Long appeared wearing
the beard and solemnly shook hands with his father-in-law. The steward
departed baffled. Needless to say, the party had been well primed for
the occasion.

On the table in the Lamb suite reposed a bowl of animal crackers and a
large Noah's Ark.

"Don't forget to sing," ran the accompanying note from Brother Dug.
"Love and kisses."

The ship was now well under weigh. Several miles up the river
two odd-looking characters were emerging from the pier shed--ancient
Thomas and the vague-eyed half-wit, both of whom were already missing
Mr. Lamb. That gentleman and Sandra were standing in the stern. Sandra
was getting very close to him. They were both looking back at the wake
of the ship. It was the same ship on which Mr. Lamb had once been such
a disturbing stowaway. Sandra continued to cram herself against her
companion. Mr. Lamb gave her a pinch of protest.

"Don't hurl yourself at me like that," he complained, looking
nervously about him. "You're practically sitting on my chest. I'm not
an open subway door."

Apparently Sandra did not hear him. She wedged herself even
closer. Suddenly Mr. Lamb pointed to a weather-beaten old seagull
raucously following the ship.

"See that old devil?" said Mr. Lamb. " Well, I think I know that gull.
He asked me to eat fertilizer with him once."

"Do you happen to know who's aboard this ship?" asked Hebe
brightly, suddenly appearing at the rail. "I hope not," replied her
father. "Who?"

"Sapho and Leonard Gray," announced Hebe.

Mr. Lamb stood as if contemplating a rapid descent into the sea. Sandra
seemed highly delighted by the news.

"Married or not?" she asked.

"Not," said Hebe briefly. "Leonard doesn't know the meaning of the word."

"A nice ship, this," observed Mr. Lamb.

"Where do you get off?" demanded his daughter. Mr. Lamb turned
back to the rail and gazed along the trailing wake, where the old
seagull and his mob were scurrying greedily among the waves. A
suggestion of a grin was beginning to gather slowly at the corners of
his lips.

"Well, two can play at that game," thought Mr. Lamb. "Or rather four...and
a very amusing game it is."



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