A grunt from the hump acknowledged this somewhat dubious compliment.
“Honestly, you look great!” repeated Perry enthusiastically. “Move round a little.”
The hind legs moved forward, giving the effect of a huge cat-camel hunching his back preparatory to a spring.
“No; move sideways.”
The camel’s hips went neatly out of joint; a hula dancer would have writhed in envy.
“Good, isn’t it?” demanded Perry, turning to Mrs. Nolak for approval.
“It looks lovely,” agreed Mrs. Nolak.
“We’ll take it,” said Perry.
The bundle was safely stowed under Perry’s arm and they left the shop.
“Go to the party!” he commanded as he took his seat in the back.
“Where ’bouts is it?”
This presented a new problem. Perry tried to remember, but the names of all those who had given parties during the holidays danced confusedly before his eyes. He could ask Mrs. Nolak, but on looking out the window he saw that the shop was dark. Mrs. Nolak had already faded out, a little black smudge far down the snowy street.
“Drive uptown,” directed Perry with fine confidence. “If you see a party, stop. Otherwise I’ll tell you when we get there.”
He fell into a hazy daydream and his thoughts wandered again to Betty—he imagined vaguely that they had had a disagreement because she refused to go to the party as the back part of the camel. He was just slipping off into a chilly doze when he was wakened by the taxi driver opening the door and shaking him by the arm.
“Here we are, maybe.”
Perry looked out sleepily. A striped awning led from the curb up to a spreading gray stone house, from inside which issued the low drummy whine of expensive jazz. He recognized the Howard Tate house.
“Sure,” he said emphatically; “’at’s it! Tate’s party to-night. Sure, everybody’s goin’.”
“Say,” said the individual anxiously after another look at the awning, “you sure these people ain’t gonna romp on me for comin’ here?”
Perry drew himself up with dignity.
“’F anybody says anything to you, just tell ’em you’re part of my costume.”
The visualization of himself as a thing rather than a person seemed to reassure the individual,
“All right,” he said reluctantly.
Perry stepped out under the shelter of the awning and began unrolling the camel.
“Let’s go,” he commanded.
Several minutes later a melancholy, hungry-looking camel, emitting clouds of smoke from his mouth and from the tip of his noble hump, might have been seen crossing the threshold of the Howard Tate residence, passing a startled footman without so much as a snort, and leading directly for the main stairs that led up to the ballroom. The beast walked with a peculiar gait which varied between an uncertain lockstep and a stampede—but can best be described by the word “halting.” The camel had a halting gait—and as he walked he alternately elongated and contracted like a gigantic concertina.