Whereby she had landed me in a quandary. For how, pray, is it possible for me, a simple-minded male, fittingly to depict for you the clothes of Margaret?—the innumerable vanities, the quaint devices, the pleasing conceits with which she delighted to enhance her comeliness? The thing is beyond me. Let us keep discreetly out of her wardrobe, you and I.
Otherwise, I should have to prattle of an infinity of mysteries—of her scarfs, feathers, laces, gloves, girdles, knots, hats, shoes, fans, and slippers—of her embroideries, rings, pins, pendants, ribbons, spangles, bracelets, and chains—in fine, there would be no end to the list of gewgaws that went to make Margaret Hugonin even more adorable than Nature had fashioned her. For when you come to think of it, it takes the craft and skill and life-work of a thousand men to dress one girl properly; and in Margaret’s case, I protest that every one of them, could he have beheld the result of their united labours, would have so gloried in his own part therein that there would have been no putting up with any of the lot.
Yet when I think of the tiny shoes she affected—patent-leather ones mostly, with a seam running straight up the middle (and you may guess the exact date of our comedy by knowing in what year these shoes were modish); the string of fat pearls she so often wore about her round, full throat; the white frock, say, with arabesques of blue all over it, that Felix Kennaston said reminded him of Ruskin’s tombstone; or that other white-and-blue one—decollete, that was—which I swear seraphic mantua-makers had woven out of mists and the skies of June: when I remember these things, I repeat, almost am I tempted to become a boot-maker and a lapidary and a milliner and, in fine, an adept in all the other arts and trades and sciences that go to make a well-groomed American girl what she is—the incredible fruit of grafted centuries, the period after the list of Time’s achievements—just that I might describe Margaret to you properly.
But the thing is beyond me. I leave such considerations, then, to Celestine, and resolve for the future rigorously to eschew all such gauds. Meanwhile, if an untutored masculine description will content you—
Margaret, I have on reliable feminine authority, was one of the very few blondes whose complexions can carry off reds and yellows. This particular gown—I remember it perfectly—was of a dim, dull yellow—flounciful (if I may coin a word), diaphanous, expansive. I have not the least notion what fabric composed it; but scattered about it, in unexpected places, were diamond-shaped red things that I am credibly informed are called medallions. The general effect of it may be briefly characterised as grateful to the eye and dangerous to the heart, and to a rational train of thought quite fatal.
For it was cut low in the neck; and Margaret’s neck and shoulders would have drawn madrigals from a bench of bishops.