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Just the thing to have expected of an ass like Billings—a fellow with no sense of the proprieties! His kind of mind had never got any further than the fact that I had a guest-room and a quiet apartment. The further fact that it was in a bachelor apartment house and I a bachelor—and not yet out of my twenties, dash it—would never have presented itself to a chump like Billings as having any bearing on the matter.

The thing to do was to carry it off as naturally as possible for a few minutes, and then slip away. Probably she hadn't counted upon my being in town at all—had taken it for granted it was some sort of family apartment—with housekeeper, servant maids, all that sort of thing.

She'll have a good sleep and get off early in the morning on the Albany boat. Don't suppose she'd understand, anyhow—sweet, innocent, unsophisticated thing like that. What a fool Billings is! And I jammed in savagely the turquoise matrix pin with which I was replacing the pearl, because it went better with my tie. I'll get the janitor's wife to come up and stay near her.

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And I dashed back, murmuring some jolly rubbish of apology. And then I just brought up speechless—almost fell over backward. For as she stood there under the light, I saw that what I had taken for a dress of black silk was not a dress at all, but a suit of pajamas—black, filmy pajamas, whose loose elegance concealed but could not wholly deny the goddess-like figure within. I mumbled something jolly idiotic—some acknowledgment.

THE HAUNTED PAJAMAS

But I was pink about the ears, and I knew it, while she was cool and serene as a lily of the what-you-call-it, don't you know. I was trying not to see the pajamas, trying to pretend not to notice them, but dashed if I didn't only make it worse! For she looked down at herself with a laugh—rather an embarrassed laugh, I thought; and her little shrug and glance directed attention to her attire.

Dash it, I never was so rebuked and mortified in all my life. What an ass I had been to seem to notice at all! Her sunny head nodded satisfaction.

Transcript

I was afraid you wouldn't like it—afraid you would think I was acting a little free. But your man Jenkins—isn't that his name? And when I got here to-night and began piling the things out of my other bag—well, I saw I was up a tree.

Not a thing to slip into, you know—not so much as a dressing-gown or even a bathrobe. Then your man saved my life—suggested these pajamas. I said so; but, dash it, I wasn't sure I did, for I knew so devilish little about girls. But I got hold of this much: I understood that this delicately reared creature had missed the restfulness and luxury of a shift to some sort of dressing-robe after her day of travel. Probably one of those ribbony, pinky-white fripperies one sees in the windows of the Avenue shops, rosy, foamy dreams like the—well, like the crest of a soda cocktail, don't you know.

And the pajamas had been adopted as a comfortable makeshift. By Jove! And here she was sitting, calmly telling me all about it—just as she might to Jack—never thinking a thing about it!


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My, how charming, how innocent she was! But, dash it, that was the reason she was so beautiful—of course, that was it—and I had never seen anybody like her in all the world before. I knew jolly well I never should again, either. But I knew I ought to go—and at once. Just then she turned toward me, her elbow on the arm of the wicker chair, her dainty, manicured finger-tips supporting her chin. Lightnut, I wasn't sure you would remember me at all," she said. I thought her face darkened a little; then her smile flashed through, like sunshine through a cloud.

Her laugh came on top, like the mellow ripple of a tiny brook—that sort of thing—oh, you know! Lightnut, cut out the josh," she remonstrated; and I thought she grew a little red. She tossed one knee over the other and threw herself back in the chair. She seemed a little piqued. She went on:. Gets all those mamma's baby ways out of you, you bet your life, and all the slushiness you get from trying to be like your sisters. I caught my breath. Of course, she had no idea how it sounded—this sort of talk; it was just her innocent frankness, her—what d'ye call it?

She continued musingly: "Gee, but I was soft when I first went away—a regular pie-faced angel-child! Then she straightened up, whirled her chair facing me, and gave me a sounding slap on the knee. Well, I reckon yes! But, dash me, I was so aghast I couldn't get out a word. Just sat there batting at her and turning hot and cold by turns. Came devilish near losing consciousness, by Jove, that's what! Of course, I knew she didn't know what she was talking about. Hadn't any sisters myself, don't you know, and never had learned much about other fellows' sisters; but, dash it, I knew something about faces , and I would have staked my life on hers.

You can nearly always tell, you know. But, anyhow, I thought I had better go now. I got up. I added: "And as I go out, I'll stop down-stairs and have some one come up and stay with you. I'm running you off—I know I am. Say, Mr. Lightnut, I don't want to do that.

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I thought sure you were going to be here. Brother insisted you would be.

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Lightnut, you're going just because I'm here. Say now, own up! But she was just a child—an innocent little child; and how the deuce could I ever make her understand? I stammered: "Why—er—not in New York, you know. They won't take a lady in at this time of night. She snapped her fingers. Lightnut, play easier on that girlie and lady pedal; cook up a fresh gag! I tell you, I've put all that behind me. Say, wait till you've known me a little, and I'll bet a purse you never call me a lady again! Say, that's funny! And it certainly seemed to strike her sense of humor.

She gave me a sudden punch in the side that fairly left me breathless, and her laughter rang out birdlike, joyous.

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Of a sudden I felt devilish awkward and foolish. Lightnut—don't treat me like a kid. I want to get acquainted. See here, I'm not bothering you, am I, Mr. I think I must have said it heartily and convincingly, don't you know, for her lovely face looked pleased. Lightnut, Brother Jack would throw seventeen thousand fits if I went to a hotel, because—" She laughed deliciously.

He knew I would be tearing around all night with the boys— that's what! Lightnut, I don't want you to get me sized up wrong. I'm none of your little waxy gardenias—not much! And she gave me a blow on the shoulder that was like a stroke from a man's arm.