At the turn of the stairs the Vances’ second girl in a white lawn cap directed him to the gentlemen’s dressing-room, which was the room of Henrietta Vance’s older brother. About a dozen men were here before him, some rolling up their overcoats into balls and stowing them with their canes in the corners of the room; others laughing and smoking together, and still others who were either brushing their hair before the mirrors or sitting on the bed in their stocking feet, breathing upon their patent leathers, warming them before putting them on. There were one or two who knew no one and who stood about unhappily, twisting the tissue paper from the buttons of their new gloves, and looking stupidly at the pictures on the walls of the room. Occasionally one of the gentlemen would step to the door and look out into the hall to see if the ladies whom they were escorting were yet come out of their dressing-room, ready to go down.
On the centre table stood three boxes of cigars and a great many packages of cigarettes, while extra hairbrushes, whiskbrooms, and papers of pins had been placed about the bureau.
As Vandover came in, he nodded pleasantly to such of the men as he knew, and, after hiding his hat and coat under the bed, shook himself into his clothes again and rearranged his dress tie.
The house was filling up rapidly; one heard the deadened roll of wheels in the street outside, the banging of carriage doors, and an incessant rustle of stiff skirts ascending the stairs. From the ladies’ dressing-room came an increasing soprano chatter, while downstairs the orchestra around the piano in the back parlour began to snarl and whine louder and louder. About the halls and stairs one caught brief glimpses of white and blue opera cloaks edged with swan’s-down alternating with the gleam of a starched shirt bosom and the glint of a highly polished silk hat. Odours of sachet and violets came and went elusively or mingled with those of the roses and pinks. An air of gayety and excitement began to spread throughout the house.
“Hello, old man!” “Hello, Van!” Charlie Geary, young Haight, and Ellis came in together. “Hello, boys!” answered Vandover, hairbrush in hand, turning about from the mirror, where he had been trying to make his hair lie very flat and smooth.
“Look here,” said Geary, showing him a dance-card already full, “I’ve got every dance promised. I looked out for that at the last one of these affairs; made all my arrangements and engagements then. Ah, you bet, I don’t get left on any dance. That’s the way you want to rustle. Ah,” he went on, “had a bully sleep last night. I knew I was going to be out late to-night, so I went to bed at nine; didn’t wake up till seven. Had a fine cutlet for breakfast.”
It was precisely at this moment that Geary got his first advancement in life. Mr. Beale, Jr., head clerk in the great firm of Beale & Story, came up to him as he was drawing off his overcoat: