With her bit of property and brilliant parts she had had many suitors but they had been refused one after another for reasons she could hardly have explained. For years now Tom Teerswell had been her escort. Whether or not Caroline Wynn would every marry him was a perennial subject of speculation among their friends and it usually ended in the verdict that she could not afford it—that it was financially impossible.
Nevertheless, the two were usually seen in public together, and although she often showed her quiet mastery of the situation, seldom had she snubbed him so openly as at the Treble Clef concert.
Teerswell was furious and began to plot vengeance; but Miss Wynn was attracted by the personality of Bles Alwyn. Southern country Negroes were rare in her set, but here was a man of intelligence and keenness coupled with an amazing frankness and modesty, and perceptibly shadowed by sorrow. The combination was, so far as she had observed, both rare and temporary and she was disposed to watch it in this case purely as a matter of intellectual curiosity. At the door of her home, therefore, after a walk of unusual interest, she said:
“I’m going to have a few friends in next Tuesday night; won’t you come, Mr. Alwyn?” And Mr. Alwyn said that he would.
Next morning Miss Wynn rather repented her hasty invitation, but of course nothing could be done now. Nothing? Well, there was one thing; and she went to the telephone. A suggestion to Bles that he might profitably extend his acquaintance sent him to a certain tailor shop kept by a friend of hers; a word to the tailor guarded against the least suspicion of intrigue entering Bles’s head.
It turned out quite as Miss Wynn had designed; Mr. Grey, the tailor, gave Bles some points on dressing, and made him, Southern fashion, a frock-coat for dress wear that set off his fine figure. On the night of the gathering at Miss Wynn’s Bles dressed with care, hesitating long over a necktie, but at last choosing one which he had recently purchased and which pleased him particularly. He was prompt to the minute and was consequently the first guest; but Miss Wynn’s greeting was so quietly cordial that his embarrassment soon fled. She looked him over at leisure and sighed at his tie; otherwise he was thoroughly presentable according to the strictest Washington standard.