Many the Bon Ton afternoon devoted entirely to the possible lack of length of the new season’s skirts or the intricacies of the new filet-lace patterns.
Fads for the latest personal accoutrements gripped the Bon Ton in seasonal epidemics.
The permanent wave swept it like a tidal one.
In one winter of afternoons enough colored-silk sweaters were knitted in the lobby alone to supply an orphan asylum, but didn’t.
The beaded bag, cunningly contrived, needleful by needleful, from little strands of colored-glass caviar, glittered its hour.
Filet lace came then, sheerly, whole yokes of it for crepe-de-Chine nightgowns and dainty scalloped edges for camisoles.
Mrs. Samstag made six of the nightgowns that winter—three for herself and three for her daughter. Peach-blowy pink ones with lace yokes that were scarcely more to the skin than the print of a wave edge running up sand, and then little frills of pink-satin ribbon, caught up here and there with the most delightful and unconvincing little blue-satin rosebuds.
It was bad for her neuralgic eye, the meanderings of the filet pattern, but she liked the delicate threadiness of the handiwork, and Mr. Latz liked watching her.
There you have it! Straight through the lacy mesh of the filet to the heart interest.
Mr. Louis Latz, who was too short, slightly too stout, and too shy of likely length of swimming arm ever to have figured in any woman’s inevitable visualization of her ultimate Leander, liked, fascinatedly, to watch Mrs. Samstag’s nicely manicured fingers at work. He liked them passive, too. Best of all, he would have preferred to feel them between his own, but that had never been.
Nevertheless, that desire was capable of catching him unawares. That very morning as he had stood, in his sumptuous bachelor’s apartment, strumming on one of the windows that overlooked an expansive tree-and-lake vista of Central Park, he had wanted very suddenly and very badly to feel those fingers in his and to kiss down on them.
Even in his busy broker’s office, this desire could cut him like a swift lance.
He liked their taper and their rosy pointedness, those fingers, and the dry, neat way they had of stepping in between the threads.
Mr. Latz’s nails were manicured, too, not quite so pointedly, but just as correctly as Mrs. Samstag’s. But his fingers were stubby and short. Sometimes he pulled at them until they cracked.
Secretly he yearned for length of limb, of torso, even of finger.
On this, one of a hundred such typical evenings in the Bon Ton lobby, Mr. Latz, sighing out a satisfaction of his inner man, sat himself down on a red-velvet chair opposite Mrs. Samstag. His knees, widespread, taxed his knife-pressed gray trousers to their very last capacity, but he sat back in none the less evident comfort, building his fingers up into a little chapel.