Mrs. Nolak was short and ineffectual looking, and on the cessation of the world war had belonged for a while to one of the new nationalities. Owing to the unsettled European conditions she had never since been quite sure what she was. The shop in which she and her husband performed their daily stint was dim and ghostly and peopled with suits of armour and Chinese mandarins and enormous papier-mache birds suspended from the ceiling. In a vague background many rows of masks glared eyelessly at the visitor, and there were glass cases full of crowns and scepters and jewels and enormous stomachers and paints and powders and crape hair and face creams and wigs of all colours.
When Perry ambled into the shop Mrs. Nolak was folding up the last troubles of a strenuous day, so she thought, in a drawer full of pink silk stockings.
“Something for you?” she queried pessimistically.
“Want costume of Julius Hur, the charioteer.”
Mrs. Nolak was sorry, but every stitch of charioteer had been rented long ago. Was it for the Townsends’ circus ball?
“Sorry,” she said, “but I don’t think there’s anything left that’s really circus.”
This was an obstacle.
“Hm,” said Perry. An idea struck him suddenly. “If you’ve got a piece of canvas I could go’s a tent.”
“Sorry, but we haven’t anything like that. A hardware store is where you’d have to go to. We have some very nice Confederate soldiers.”
“No, no soldiers.”
“And I have a very handsome king.”
He shook his head.
“Several of the gentlemen,” she continued hopefully, “are wearing stovepipe hats and swallow-tail coats and going as ringmasters—but we’re all out of tall hats. I can let you have some crape hair for a moustache.”
“Something—let’s see. Well, we have a lion’s head, and a goose, and a camel—”
“Camel?” The idea seized Perry’s imagination, gripped it fiercely.
“Yes, but it needs two people.”
“Camel. That’s an idea. Lemme see it.”
The camel was produced from his resting place on a top shelf. At first glance he appeared to consist entirely of a very gaunt, cadaverous head and a sizable hump, but on being spread out he was found to possess a dark brown, unwholesome-looking body made of thick, cottony cloth.
“You see it takes two people,” explained Mrs. Nolak, holding the camel up in frank admiration. “If you have a friend he could be part of it. You see there’s sorta pants for two people. One pair is for the fella in front and the other pair for the fella in back. The fella in front does the lookin’ out through these here eyes an’ the fella in back he’s just gotta stoop over an’ folla the front fella round.”
“Put it on,” commanded Perry.
Obediently Mrs. Nolak put her tabby-cat face inside the camel’s head and turned it from side to side ferociously.