“I meant our ball.”
“Oh!” said Mrs. Vanderpool in turn. “Oh!” Here a thought came. Of course, the colored people had their own ball; she remembered having heard about it. Why not send Zora? She plunged in:
“Miss Wynn, I have a maid—such an intelligent girl; I do wish she could attend your ball—” seeing her blunder, she paused. Miss Wynn was coolly buttoning her glove.
“Yes,” she acknowledged politely, “few of us can afford maids, and therefore we do not usually arrange for them; but I think we can have your protegee look on from the gallery. Good-afternoon.”
As Mrs. Vanderpool drove home she related the talk to Zora. Zora was silent at first. Then she said deliberately:
“Miss Wynn was right.”
“Did Helene attend the ball four years ago?”
“But, Zora, must you folk ape our nonsense as well as our sense?”
“You force us to,” said Zora.
The new President had been inaugurated. Beneath the creamy pile of the old Capitol, and facing the new library, he had stood aloft and looked down on a waving sea of faces—black-coated, jostling, eager-eyed fellow creatures. They had watched his lips move, had scanned eagerly his dress and the gowned and decorated dignitaries beside him; and then, with blare of band and prancing of horses, he had been whirled down the dip and curve of that long avenue, with its medley of meanness and thrift and hurry and wealth, until, swinging sharply, the dim walls of the White House rose before him. He entered with a sigh.
Then the vast welter of humanity dissolved and streamed hither and thither, gaping and laughing until night, when thousands poured into the red barn of the census shack and entered the artificial fairyland within. The President walked through, smiling; the senators protected their friends in the crush; and Harry Cresswell led his wife to a little oasis of Southern ladies and gentlemen.
“This is democracy for you,” said he, wiping his brow.
From a whirling eddy Mrs. Vanderpool waved at them, and they rescued her.
“I think I am ready to go,” she gasped. “Did you ever!”
“Come,” Cresswell invited. But just then the crowd pushed them apart and shot them along, and Mrs. Cresswell found herself clinging to her husband amid two great whirling variegated throngs of driving, white-faced people. The band crashed and blared; the people laughed and pushed; and with rhythmic sound and swing the mighty throng was dancing.
It took much effort, but at last the Cresswell party escaped and rolled off in their carriages. They swept into the avenue and out again, then up 14th Street, where, turning for some street obstruction, they passed a throng of carriages on a cross street.
“It’s the other ball,” cried Mrs. Vanderpool, and amid laughter she added, “Let’s go!”