Miss Boke danced and danced with him; she danced him on—and on—and on——
At half past one the orchestra played “Home, Sweet Home.” As the last bars sounded, a group of earnest young men who had surrounded the lovely guest of honor, talking vehemently, broke into loud shouts, embraced one another and capered variously over the lawn. Mr. Parcher beheld from a distance these manifestations, and then, with an astonishment even more profound, took note of the tragic William, who was running toward him, radiant—Miss Boke hovering futilely in the far background.
“What’s all the hullabaloo?” Mr. Parcher inquired.
“Miss Pratt!” gasped William. “Miss Pratt!”
“Well, what about her?”
And upon receiving William’s reply, Mr. Parcher might well have discerned behind it the invisible hand of an ironic but recompensing Providence making things even—taking from the one to give to the other.
“She’s going to stay!” shouted the happy William. “She’s promised to stay another week!”
And then, mingling with the sounds of rejoicing, there ascended to heaven the stricken cry of an elderly man plunging blindly into the house in search of his wife.
Observing the monotonously proper behavior of the sun, man had an absurd idea and invented Time. Becoming still more absurd, man said, “So much shall be a day; such and such shall be a week. All weeks shall be the same length.” Yet every baby knows better! How long for Johnnie Watson, for Joe Bullitt, for Wallace Banks—how long for William Sylvanus Baxter was the last week of Miss Pratt? No one can answer. How long was that week for Mr. Parcher? Again the mind is staggered.
Many people, of course, considered it to be a week of average size. Among these was Jane.
Throughout seven days which brought some tense moments to the Baxter household, Jane remained calm; and she was still calm upon the eighth morning as she stood in the front yard of her own place of residence, gazing steadily across the street. The object of her grave attention was an ample brick house, newly painted white after repairs and enlargements so inspiring to Jane’s faculty for suggesting better ways of doing things, that the workmen had learned to address her, with a slight bitterness, as “Madam President.”
Throughout the process of repair, and until the very last of the painting, Jane had considered this house to be as much her property as anybody’s; for children regard as ownerless all vacant houses and all houses in course of construction or radical alteration. Nothing short of furniture—intimate furniture in considerable quantity—hints that the public is not expected. However, such a hint, or warning, was conveyed to Jane this morning, for two “express wagons” were standing at the curb with their backs impolitely toward the brick house; and powerful-voiced men went surging to and fro under fat arm-chairs, mahogany tables, disarticulated bedsteads, and baskets of china and glassware; while a harassed lady appeared in the outer doorway, from time to time, with gestures of lamentation and entreaty. Upon the sidewalk, between the wagons and the gate, was a broad wet spot, vaguely circular, with a partial circumference of broken glass and extinct goldfish.