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Mr. Billings’s Pockets
by [?]

“If you still hesitate, after what Madge has said,” said Henry, pulling a large roll of paper out of his pocket, “here are the statistics.”

“Very well,” I said, “I will help you, if I can do so and not miss the six-thirty train. What is your plan?”

“It is very simple,” said Henry. “Our fathers are both quite near-sighted, and as six o’clock draws near they will naturally become greatly excited and nervous, and, therefore, less observant of small things. I have brought with me some burnt cork with which I will blacken my face, and I will change clothes with Lemuel, and, in the one moment necessary to escape, my father will not recognize me. Lemuel, on the other hand, will whiten his face with some powder that Madge has brought, and will wear my clothes, and in the excitement my father will seize him instead of me.”

“Excellent,” I said, “but what part do I play in this?”

“This part,” said Henry, “you will wear, over your street clothes, a gown that Madge has brought in her suit-case and a hat that she has also brought, both of which her father will easily recognize, while Madge will redden her face with rouge, muss her hair, don a torn, calico dress, and with a scrub-rag and a mop in her hands easily pass for a scrub-woman.

“And then?” I asked.

“Then you and Lemuel will steal cautiously down the stairs, as if you were Madge and I seeking to escape, while Madge and I, as Lemuel and the scrub-woman, will go down by the elevator. My father and Madge’s father will seize you and Lemuel–“

“And I shall appear like a fool when they discover I am a respectable business man rigged up in woman’s clothes,” I said.

“Not at all,” said Madge, “for Henry and I have thought of that. You must play your part until you see that henry and I have escaped from the elevator and have left the building, and that is all. I have had the forethought to prepare an alibi for you. As soon as you see that Henry and I are safe outside the building, you must become very indignant, and insist that you are a respectable married woman, and in proof you must hand my father the contents of this package. He will be convinced immediately and let you go, and then Lemuel can run you up to your office and you can take off my dress and hat and catch the six-thirty train without trouble.” She then handed me a small parcel, which I slipped into my coat pocket.

When this had been agreed upon she and Henry left the office and I took the hat and dress from the suit-case and put them on, while Lemuel put on Henry’s suit and whitened his face. This took but a few minutes, and we went into the hall and found Henry and Madge already waiting for us. Henry was blackened into a good likeness of Lemuel, and Madge was quite a mussy scrub-woman. They immediately entered the elevator and began to descend slowly, while Lemuel and I crept down the stairs.

Lemuel and I kept as nearly as possible opposite the elevator, so that we might arrive at the foot of the stairs but a moment before Madge and Henry, and we could hear the two fathers shuffling on the street floor, when suddenly, as we reached the third floor, we heard a whisper from Henry in the elevator. The elevator had stuck fast between the third and fourth floors. As with one mind, Lemuel and I seated ourselves on a step and waited until Henry should get the elevator running again and could proceed to the street floor.

For a while we could hear no noise but the grating of metal on metal as Henry worked with the starting lever of the elevator, and then we heard the two voices of the fathers.