And when that dance and its encore were over she went to lean against a tree, while Wallace Banks fanned her, but she was so busy with Wallace that she did not notice William, though she passed near enough to waft a breath of violet scent to his wan nose. A fragment of her silver speech tinkled in his ear:
“Oh, Wallie Banks! Bid pid s’ant have Bruvva Josie-Joe’s dance ’less Joe say so. Lola mus’ be fair. Wallie mustn’t—”
“That’s that Miss Pratt,” observed Miss Boke, following William’s gaze with some interest. “You met her yet?”
“Yeh,” said William.
“She’s been visiting here all summer,” Miss Boke informed him. “I was at a little tea this afternoon, and some of the girls said this Miss Pratt said she’d never dream of getting engaged to any man that didn’t have seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I expect so. Anyway, they said they heard her say so.”
William lifted his right hand from his ankle and passed it, time after time, across his damp forehead. He did not believe that Miss Pratt could have expressed herself in so mercenary a manner, but if she had—well, one fact in British history had so impressed him that he remembered it even after Examination: William Pitt, the younger, had been Prime Minister of England at twenty-one.
If an Englishman could do a thing like that, surely a bright, energetic young American needn’t feel worried about seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars! And although William, at seventeen, had seldom possessed more than seven hundred and fifty cents, four long years must pass, and much could be done, before he would reach the age at which William Pitt attained the premiership—coincidentally a good, ripe, marriageable age. Still, seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars is a stiffish order, even allowing four long years to fill it; and undoubtedly Miss Boke’s bit of gossip added somewhat to the already sufficient anxieties of William’s evening.
“Up at the lake,” Miss Boke chattered on, “we got to use the hotel dining-room for the hops. It’s a floor a good deal like this floor is to-night—just about oily enough and as nice a floor as ever I danced on. We have awf’ly good times up at the lake. ’Course there aren’t so many Men up there, like there are here to-night, and I must say I am glad to get a chance to dance with a Man again! I told you you’d dance all right, once we got started, and look at the way it’s turned out: our steps just suit exactly! If I must say it, I could scarcely think of anybody I ever met I’d rather dance with. When anybody’s step suits in with mine, that way, why, I love to dance straight through an evening with one person, the way we’re doing.”
Dimly, yet with strong repulsion, William perceived that their interminable companionship had begun to affect Miss Boke with a liking for him. And as she chattered chummily on, revealing this increasing cordiality all the while—though her more obvious topics were dancing, dancing-floors, and “the lake”—the reciprocal sentiment roused in his breast was that of Sindbad the Sailor for the Old Man of the Sea.