She hadn’t meant to go to sleep, having already slept away half the morning, but the author’s tactics in the detective story were so flagrantly unfair, he was so manifestly engaged trying to make trouble for his poor anemic characters instead of trying to solve their perplexities, that presently she tossed the book aside and began dreaming one of her own in which the heroine got put off a street-car in the opening chapter.
The telephone bell roused her once or twice, far enough to observe that Inga was attending to it, so when the front door-bell rang, she left that to Inga, too—didn’t even sit up and swing her legs off the couch and try, with a prodigious stretch, to get herself awake, until she heard the girl say casually:
“Her ban right in the sitting-room.”
So it fell out that Rodney Aldrich had, for his second vivid picture of her,—the first had been, you will remember, when she had seized the conductor by both wrists, and had said in a blaze of beautiful wrath, “Don’t dare to touch me like that!”—a splendid, lazy, tousled creature, in a chaotic glory of chestnut hair, an unlaced middy-blouse, a plaid skirt twisted round her knees, and a pair of ridiculous red bedroom slippers, with red pompons on the toes. The creature was stretching herself with the grace of a big cat that has just been roused from a nap on the hearth-rug.
If his first picture of her had been brief, his second one was practically a snap-shot, because at sight of him, she flashed to her feet.
So, for a moment, they confronted each other about equally aghast, flushed up to the hair, and simultaneously and incoherently, begging each other’s pardon—neither could have said for what, the goddess out of the machine being Inga, the maid-of-all-work. But suddenly, at a twinkle she caught in his eye, her own big eyes narrowed and her big mouth widened into a smile, which broke presently into her deep-throated laugh, whereupon he laughed too, and they shook hands, and she asked him to sit down.
[Illustration: At sight of him she flashed to her feet.]
THE BIG HORSE
“It’s too ridiculous,” she said. “Since last night, when I got to thinking how I must have looked, wrestling with that conductor, I’ve been telling myself that if I ever saw you again, I’d try to act like a lady. But it’s no use, is it?”
He said that he, too, had hoped to make a better impression the second time than the first. That was what he brought the books back for. He had hoped to convince her that a man capable of consigning a half-drowned girl to a ten-mile ride on the elevated, instead of walking her over to his sister’s, having her dried out properly, and sent home in a motor, wasn’t permanently and chronically as blithering an idiot as he may have seemed. It was a great load off of his mind to find her alive at all.