“He didn’t see us.”
“Well, we’re used to that,” said Mr. Parcher. “None of ’em see us. They’ve worn holes in all the cane-seated chairs, they’ve scuffed up the whole house, and I haven’t been able to sit down anywhere down-stairs for three months without sitting on some dam boy; but they don’t even know we’re alive! Well, thank the Lord, it’s over—after to-night!” His voice became reflective. “That Baxter boy was the worst, until he took to coming in the daytime when I was down-town. I couldn’t have stood it if he’d kept on coming in the evening. If I’d had to listen to any more of his talking or singing, either the embalmer or the lunatic-asylum would have had me, sure! I see he’s got hold of his daddy’s dress-suit again for to-night.”
“Is it Mr. Baxter’s dress-suit?” Mrs. Parcher inquired. “How do you know?”
Mr. Parcher smiled. “How I happen to know is a secret,” he said. “I forgot about that. His little sister, Jane, told me that Mrs. Baxter had hidden it, or something, so that Willie couldn’t wear it, but I guess Jane wouldn’t mind my telling you that she told me especially as they’re letting him use it again to-night. I suppose he feels grander ’n the King o’ Siam!”
“No,” Mrs. Parcher returned, thoughtfully. “I don’t think he does, just now.” Her gaze was fixed upon the dancing-platform, which most of the dancers were abandoning as the music fell away to an interval of silence. In the center of the platform there remained one group, consisting of Miss Pratt and five orators, and of the orators the most impassioned and gesticulative was William.
“They all seem to want to dance with her all the time,” said Mrs. Parcher. “I heard her telling one of the boys, half an hour ago, that all she could give him was either the twenty-eighth regular dance or the sixteenth ‘extra.’”
“The what?” Mr. Parcher demanded, whirling to face her. “Do they think this party’s going to keep running till day after to-morrow?” And then, as his eyes returned to the group on the platform, “That boy seems to have quite a touch of emotional insanity,” he remarked, referring to William. “What is the matter with him?”
“Oh, nothing,” his wife returned. “Only trying to arrange a dance with her. He seems to be in difficulties.”
Nothing could have been more evident than William’s difficulties. They continued to exist, with equal obviousness, when the group broke up in some confusion, after a few minutes of animated discussion; Mr. Wallace Banks, that busy and executive youth, bearing Miss Pratt triumphantly off to the lemonade-punch-bowl, while William pursued Johnnie Watson and Joe Bullitt. He sought to detain them near the edge of the platform, though they appeared far from anxious to linger in his company; and he was able to arrest their attention only by clutching an arm of each. In fact, the good feeling which had latterly prevailed among these three appeared to be in danger of disintegrating. The occasion was too vital; and the watchword for “Miss Pratt’s last night” was Devil-Take-the-Hindmost!