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Mr. Billings’s Pockets
by [?]

On the sixteenth of June Mr. Rollin Billings entered his home at Westcote very much later than usual, and stealing upstairs, like a thief in the night, he undressed and dropped into bed. In two minutes he was asleep, and it was no wonder, for by that time it was five minutes after three in the morning, and Mr. Billings’s usual bedtime was ten o’clock. Even when he was delayed at his office he made it an invariable rule to catch the nine o’clock train home.

When Mrs. Billings awoke the next–or, rather, that same–morning, she gazed a minute at the thin, innocent face of her husband, and was in the satisfied frame of mind that takes an unexpected train delay as a legitimate excuse, when she happened to cast her eyes upon Mr. Billings’s coat, which was thrown carelessly over the foot of the bed. Protruding from one of the side pockets was a patent nursing-bottle, half full of milk. Instantly Mrs. Billings was out of bed and searching Mr. Billings’s other pockets. To her horror her search was fruitful.

In a vest pocket she found three false curls, or puffs of hair, such as ladies are wearing to-day to increase the abundance of their own, and these curls were of a rich brownish red. Finally, when she dived into his trousers pocket, she found twelve acorns carefully wrapped in a lady’s handkerchief, with the initials “T. M. C.” embroidered in one corner.

All these Mrs. Billings hid carefully in her upper bureau drawer and proceeded to dress. When at length she awakened Mr. Billings, he yawned, stretched, and then, realizing that getting-up time had arrived, hopped briskly out of bed.

“You got in late last night,” said Mrs. Billings pleasantly.

If she had expected Mr. Billings to cringe and cower she was mistaken. He continued to dress, quite in his usual manner, as if he had a clear conscience.

“Indeed I did, Mary,” he said. “It was three when I entered the house, for the clock was just striking.”

“Something must have delayed you,” suggested Mrs. Billings.

“Otherwise, dear,” said Mr. Billings, “I should have been home much sooner.

“Probably,” said Mrs. Billings, suddenly assuming her most sarcastic tone, as she reached into her bureau drawer and drew out the patent nursing-bottle, “this had something to do with your being delayed!”

Mr. Billings looked at the nursing-bottle, and then he drew out his watch and looked at that.

“My dear,” he said, “you are right. It did. But I now have just time to gulp down my coffee and catch my train. To-night, when I return from town, I will tell you the most remarkable story of that nursing-bottle, and how it happened to be in my pocket, and in the mean time I beg you–I most sincerely beg you–to feel no uneasiness.”

With this he hurried out of the room, and a few moments later his wife saw him running for his train.

All day Mrs. Billings was prey to the most disturbing thoughts, and as soon as dinner was finished that evening she led the way into the library.

“Now, Rollin?” she said, and without hesitation Mr. Billings began.


You have (he said), I know, met Lemuel, the coloured elevator boy in our office building, and you know what a pleasant, accommodating lad he is. He is the sort of boy for whom one would gladly do a favour, for he is always so willing to do favours for others, but I was thinking nothing of this when I stepped from my office at exactly five o’clock yesterday evening. I was thinking of nothing but getting home to dinner as soon as possible, and was just stepping into the elevator when Lemuel laid his hand gently on my arm.

“I beg yo’ pahdon, Mistah Billings,” he said politely, “but would yo’ do me a favour?”

“Certainly, Lemuel,” I said; “how much can I lend you?”