“My evening clothes. They aren’t anywhere in the house.”
“Where did you put them the last time you wore them?” she called.
“I don’t know. I haven’t had ’em on since last spring.”
“All right; I’ll come,” she said, putting her sewing upon the table and rising. “Men never can find anything,” she observed, additionally, as she ascended the stairs. “Especially their own things!”
On this occasion, however, as she was obliged to admit a little later, women were not more efficacious than the duller sex. Search high, search low, no trace of Mr. Baxter’s evening clothes were to be found. “Perhaps William could find them,” said Mrs. Baxter, a final confession of helplessness.
But William was no more to be found than the missing apparel. William, in fact, after spending some time in the lower back hall, listening to the quest above, had just gone out through the kitchen door. And after some ensuing futile efforts, Mr. Baxter was forced to proceed to his club in the accoutrements of business.
He walked slowly, enjoying the full moon, which sailed up a river in the sky—the open space between the trees that lined the street—and as he passed the house of Mr. Parcher he noted the fine white shape of a masculine evening bosom gleaming in the moonlight on the porch. A dainty figure in white sat beside it, and there was another white figure present, though this one was so small that Mr. Baxter did not see it at all. It was the figure of a tiny doglet, and it reposed upon the black masculine knees that belonged to the evening bosom.
Mr. Baxter heard a dulcet voice.
“He is indifferink, isn’t he, sweetest Flopit? Seriously, though, Mr. Watson was telling me about you to-day. He says you’re the most indifferent man he knows. He says you don’t care two minutes whether a girl lives or dies. Isn’t he a mean ole wicked sing, p’eshus Flopit!”
The reply was inaudible, and Mr. Baxter passed on, having recognized nothing of his own.
“These young fellows don’t have any trouble finding their dress-suits, I guess,” he murmured. “Not on a night like this!”
... Thus William, after a hard day, came to the gates of his romance, entering those portals of the moon in triumph. At one stroke his dashing raiment gave him high superiority over Johnnie Watson and other rivals who might loom. But if he had known to what undoing this great coup exposed him, it is probable that Mr. Baxter would have appeared at the Emerson Club, that night, in evening clothes.
William’s period of peculiar sensitiveness dated from that evening, and Jane, in particular, caused him a great deal of anxiety. In fact, he began to feel that Jane was a mortification which his parents might have spared him, with no loss to themselves or to the world. Not having shown that consideration for anybody, they might at least have been less spinelessly indulgent of her. William’s bitter conviction was that he had never seen a child so starved of discipline or so lost to etiquette as Jane.