Perry nodded enthusiastically. He felt suddenly exuberant. After all, he was here incognito talking to his girl—he felt like winking patronizingly at the world.
“I think it’s the best idea,” cried Betty, “to give a party like this! I don’t see how they ever thought of it. Come on, let’s dance!”
So Perry danced the cotillion. I say danced, but that is stretching the word far beyond the wildest dreams of the jazziest terpsichorean. He suffered his partner to put her hands on his helpless shoulders and pull him here and there gently over the floor while he hung his huge head docilely over her shoulder and made futile dummy motions with his feet. His hind legs danced in a manner all their own, chiefly by hopping first on one foot and then on the other. Never being sure whether dancing was going on or not, the hind legs played safe by going through a series of steps whenever the music started playing. So the spectacle was frequently presented of the front part of the camel standing at ease and the rear keeping up a constant energetic motion calculated to rouse a sympathetic perspiration in any soft-hearted observer.
He was frequently favoured. He danced first with a tall lady covered with straw who announced jovially that she was a bale of hay and coyly begged him not to eat her.
“I’d like to; you’re so sweet,” said the camel gallantly.
Each time the ringmaster shouted his call of “Men up!” he lumbered ferociously for Betty with the cardboard wiener-wurst or the photograph of the bearded lady or whatever the favour chanced to be. Sometimes he reached her first, but usually his rushes were unsuccessful and resulted in intense interior arguments.
“For heaven’s sake,” Perry would snarl fiercely between his clenched teeth, “get a little pep! I could have gotten her that time if you’d picked your feet up.”
“Well, gimme a little warnin’!”
“I did, darn you.”
“I can’t see a dog-gone thing in here.”
“All you have to do is follow me. It’s just like dragging a load of sand round to walk with you.”
“Maybe you wanta try back here.”
“You shut up! If these people found you in this room they’d give you the worst beating you ever had. They’d take your taxi license away from you!”
Perry surprised himself by the ease with which he made this monstrous threat, but it seemed to have a soporific influence on his companion, for he muttered an “aw gwan” and subsided into abashed silence.
The ringmaster mounted to the top of the piano and waved his hand for silence.
“Prizes!” he cried. “Gather round!”
Self-consciously the circle swayed forward. The rather pretty girl who had mustered the nerve to come as a bearded lady trembled with excitement, hoping to be rewarded for an evening’s hideousness. The man who had spent the afternoon having tattoo marks painted on him by a sign painter skulked on the edge of the crowd, blushing furiously when any one told him he was sure to get it.