In the midst of the confusion there was a sound from the church next door. Mr. Meech sat up among the debris and listened. It was the opening hymn for prayer-meeting.
HELL AND HEAVEN
The events of the afternoon, stirring as they had been, were soon dismissed from Sandy’s mind. The approaching hop possessed right of way over every other thought.
By the combined assistance of Mrs. Hollis and Aunt Melvy, he had been ready at half-past seven. The dance did not begin until nine; but he was to take Annette, and the doctor, whose habits were as fixed as the numbers on a clock, had insisted that she should attend prayer-meeting as usual before the dance.
In the little Hard-Shell Baptist Church the congregation had assembled and services had begun before Mr. Meech arrived. He appeared singularly flushed and breathless, and caused some confusion by giving out the hymn which had just been sung. It was not until he became stirred by the power of his theme that he gained composure.
In the front seat Dr. Fenton drowsed through the discourse. Next to him, her party dress and slipper-bag concealed by a rain-coat, sat Annette, hot and rebellious, and in anything but a prayerful frame of mind. Beside her sat Sandy, rigid with elegance, his eyes riveted on the preacher, but his thoughts on his feet. For, stationary though he was, he was really giving himself the benefit of a final rehearsal, and mentally performing steps of intricate and marvelous variety.
“Stop moving your feet!” whispered Annette. “You’ll step on my dress.”
“Is it the mazurka that’s got the hiccoughs in the middle?” asked Sandy, anxiously.
Mr. Meech paused and looked at them over his spectacles in plaintive reproach.
Then he wandered on into sixthlies and seventhlies of increasing length. Before the final amen had died upon the air, Annette and Sandy had escaped to their reward.
The hop was given in the town hall, a large, dreary-looking room with a raised platform at one end, where Johnson’s band introduced instruments and notes that had never met before.
To Sandy it was a hall of Olympus, where filmy-robed goddesses moved to the music of the spheres.
“Isn’t the floor g-grand?” cried Annette, with a little run and a slide. “I could just d-die dancing.”
“What may the chalk line be for?” asked Sandy.
“That’s to keep the stags b-back.”
“The stags?” His spirits fell before this new complication.
“Yes; the boys without partners, you know. They have to stay b-back of the chalk line and b-break in from there. You’ll catch on right away. There’s your d-dressing-room over there. Don’t bother about my card; it’s been filled a week. Is there anyb-body you want to dance with especially?”
Sandy’s eyes answered for him. They were held by a vision in the center of the room, and he was blinded to everything else.