And then Chilvers and Carter and Marshall and I exploded. It was not a dignified thing to do, and I apologised to both of the ladies afterward, but we fell down on that mutilated croquet-ground and laughed until exhausted. I am glad Miss Harding and the others were not there.
Assisted by their wives the two gladiators had struggled to their feet, but the most cursory inspection disclosed that they were more presentable when on the ground. And then the ladies joined in the laugh.
“Jack,” said Mr. Bishop, who has called me by that nickname since I was seven years old, “Jack, go out to the old barn and get a pair of horse blankets. You know where I keep them.”
“You’ve got a great head on you, Jim,” roared Harding. “I was thinking of a pair of barrels.”
When I returned with the red and yellow blankets the ladies had disappeared.
“Never mind sending down to the club for your other clothes,” Bishop was saying. “I’ve got several suits, such as they are, and I reckon one of them will fit ye.”
“This blanket is pretty good,” declared the magnate. “Say, Jim, what was it you said about that fifty-year-old cider?”
“I’m glad I didn’t give you any more of it; I’d lost my life as well as my clothes,” declared the farmer. “If they’d stayed away ’nother minute or so I’d won that second fall, sure as sin, Bob,” he said, rather ruefully, as we wrapped the blanket around him.
“You just think you would,” grinned Harding, lifting up the blanket so as to keep from stumbling over it. “Say, it must be tough to have to wear skirts all the time. Be a good fellow, Smith, and hold up my train.”
They tried to sneak in at the back entrance, but Miss Harding and the others saw them and headed them off. I shall never forget their looks of amazement, and then the screams of laughter which followed the hurried explanation.
I must postpone an account of the dinner and the dance until the next entry.
[Illustration: “It must be tough to have to wear skirts all the time”]
THE BARN DANCE
We gave Mr. Harding a great reception when he appeared on the veranda, arrayed in garments furnished by our host. I have an idea Mr. Bishop’s wardrobe was about exhausted when the two of them had completed their toilet.
“What do you think of me?” demanded Harding, striking a pose.
He obtained a variety of opinions. They were unable to find a “boiled shirt” with an eighteen inch neck band or collar, so a blue gingham one was made to do service. The only coat broad enough across the shoulders was a “Prince Albert,” in which Bishop had been married, and Harding admitted the combination was not exactly de rigeur. The trousers were woefully tight at the waist, and were inches too long.
“You are lucky to get anything,” declared Mrs. Harding, retying the wonderful red and yellow scarf and vainly attempting to smooth out some of the wrinkles in the coat. “You should be made to go home and to bed without your supper.”