“Buck up, Jack,” I heard a voice at my side. “Did she run away from you?”
I feigned ignorance to Kitty. “They are all alike,” said I, indifferently. “All dressed alike—”
“And I doubt not all acted alike.”
“I saw but one,” I admitted, “the one with a red heart on her corsage.”
Kitty laughed a merry peal. “There were twelve red hearts,” she said. “All there, and all offered to any who might take them. Silly, silly! Now, I wonder if indeed you did meet Ellen? Come, I’ll introduce you to a hundred more, the nicest girls you ever saw.”
“Then it was Ellen?”
“How should I know? I did not see you. I was too busy flirting with my husband—for after awhile I found that it was Matt, of course! It seems some sort of fate that I never see a handsome man who doesn’t turn out to be Matt.”
“I must have one more dance,” I said.
“Then select some other partner. It is too late to find Ellen now, or to get a word with her if we did. The last I saw of her she was simply persecuted by Larry Belknap of the Ninth Dragoons—all the Army knows that he’s awfully gone over Ellen.”
“But we’ll find her somewhere—”
“No, Jack, you’d better banish Ellen, and all the rest. Take my advice and run over home and go to bed. You forget you’ve the match on for to-morrow; and I must say, not wanting to disturb you in the least, I believe you’re going to need all your nerve. There’s Scotch on the sideboard, but don’t drink champagne.”
The scene had lost interest to me. The lights had paled, the music was less sweet.
Presently I strolled over to Number 16 and got Johnson to show me my little room. But I did very little at the business of sleeping; and when at last I slept I saw a long row of figures in alternate black and white; and of these one wore a red rose and a gold comb with a jewel in it, and her hair was very fragrant. I did not see Grace Sheraton in my dreams. Clearly I reasoned it out to myself as I lay awake, that if I had seen Ellen once, then indeed it were best for me I should never see Ellen again!
THE SUPREME COURT
If remorse, mental or physical, affected any of the dwellers at Jefferson Barracks on the morning following the officers’ ball, at least neither was in evidence. By noon all traces of the late festivities had been removed from the parade ground, and the routine of the Post went on with the usual mechanical precision. The Army had entertained, it now labored. In a few hours it would again be ready to be entertained; the next little event of interest being the pigeon match between Orme and myself, which swift rumor seemed to have magnified into an importance not wholly welcome to myself.