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    Chapter 62

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    Chapter 62
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    I don't know just how much time passed after that. I felt a hand on my shoulder, and realized that some one was shaking me. I had a horror of hands reaching out for me, so I tried to get away from this one; but it persisted, and there was a voice, saying, "You must get up, my friend. It's time we closed. Are you ill?"

    I raised my head; and first I glanced at the figure above the altar. It was perfectly motionless; and--incredible as it may seem--there was no trace of red paint upon either the face or the robes! The figure was dignified and serene, with a halo of light about its head--in short, it was the regulation stained glass figure that I had gazed at through all my childhood.

    "What is the matter?" asked the voice at my side; and I looked up, and discovered the Reverend Mr. Simpkinson. He recognized me, and cried: "Why, Billy! For heaven sake, what has happened?"

    I was dazed, and put my hand to my jaw. I realized that my head was aching, and that the place I touched was sore. "I--I---" I stammered. "Wait a minute." And then, "I think I was hurt." I tried to get my thoughts together. Had I been dreaming; and if so, how much was dream and how much was reality? "Tell me," I said, "is there a moving picture theatre near this church?"

    "Why, yes," said he. "The Excelsior."

    "And--was there some sort of riot?"

    "Yes. Some ex-soldiers have been trying to keep people from going in there. They are still at it. You can hear them."

    I listened. Yes, there was a murmur of voices outside. So I realized what had happened to me. I said: "I was in that mob, and I got beaten up. I was knocked pretty nearly silly, and fled in here."

    "Dear me!" exclaimed the clergyman, his amiable face full of concern. He took me by my shoulders and helped me to my feet.

    "I'm all right now," I said--"except that my jaw is swollen. Tell me, what time is it?"

    "About six o'clock."

    "For goodness sake!" I exclaimed. "I dreamed all that in an hour! I had the strangest dream--even now I can't make up my mind what was dream and what really happened." I thought for a moment. "Tell me, is there a convention of the Brigade--that is, I mean, of the American Legion in Western City now?"

    "No," said the other; "at least, not that I've heard of. They've just held their big convention in Kansas City."

    "Oh, I see! I remember--I read about it in the 'Nation.' They were pretty riotous--made a drunken orgy of it."

    "Yes," said the clergyman. "I've heard that. It seems too bad."

    "One thing more. Tell me, is there a picture of Mr. de Wiggs in the vestry-room?"

    "Good gracious, no!" laughed the other. "Was that one of the things you dreamed? Maybe you're thinking of the portrait they are showing at the Academy."

    "By George, that's it!" I said. "I patched the thing up out of all the people I know, and all the things I've read in the papers! I had been talking to a German critic, Dr. Henner--or wait a moment! Is he real? Yes, he came before I went to see the picture. He'll be entertained to hear about it. You see, the picture was supposed to be the delirium of a madman, and when I got this whack on the jaw, I set to work to have a delirium of my own, just as I had seen on the screen. It was the most amazing thing--so real, I mean. Every person I think of, I have to stop and make sure whether I really know them, or whether I dreamed them. Even you!"

    "Was I in it?" laughed Mr. Simpkinson. "What did I do?"

    But I decided I'd better not tell him. "It wasn't a polite dream," I said. "Let me see if I can walk now." I started down the aisle. "Yes, I'm all right."

    "Do you suppose that crowd will bother you again? Perhaps I'd better go with you," said the apostle of muscular Christianity.

    "No, no," I said. "They're not after me especially. I'll slip away in the other direction."

    So I bade Mr. Simpkinson good-bye, and went out on the steps, and the fresh air felt good to me. I saw the crowd down the street; the ex-service men were still pushing and shouting, driving people away from the theatre. I stopped for one glance, then hurried away and turned the corner. As I was passing an office building, I saw a big limousine draw up. The door opened, and a woman stepped out: a bold, dark, vivid beauty, bedecked with jewels and gorgeous raiment of many sorts; a big black picture hat, with a flower garden and parts of an aviary on top--

    Her glance lit on me. "My God! Will you look who's here!" She came to me with her two hands stretched out. "Billy, wretched creature, I haven't laid eyes on you for two months! Do you have to desert me entirely, just because you've fallen in love with a society girl with the face of a Japanese doll-baby? What's the matter with me, that I lose my lovers faster than I get them? I just met Edgerton Rosythe; he's got a good excuse, I admit--I'm almost as much scared of his wife as he is himself. But still, I'd like a chance to get tired of some man first! Want to come upstairs with me, and see what Planchet's doing to my old grannie in her scalping-shop? Say, would you think it would take three days' labor for half a dozen Sioux squaws to pull the skin off one old lady's back? And a week to tie up the corners of her mouth and give her a permanent smile! 'Why, grannie,' I said, 'good God, it would be cheaper to hire Charlie Chaplin to walk around in front of you all the rest of your life.' But the old girl was bound to be beautiful, so I said to Planchet, 'Make her new from the waist up, Madame, for you never can tell how the fashions'll change, and what she'll need to show.'"

    And so I knew that I was back in the real world.

    THE END.

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    Chapter 62
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