Passing through the hall, he paused abruptly, his eye having fallen with sudden disapproval upon a large, heavily framed, glass-covered engraving, “The Battle of Gettysburg,” which hung upon the wall, near the front door. Undeniably, it was a picture feeble in decorative quality; no doubt, too, William was right in thinking it as unworthy of Miss Pratt, as were Jane and Genesis and Clematis. He felt that she must never see it, especially as the frame had been chipped and had a corner broken, but it was more pleasantly effective where he found it than where (in his nervousness) he left it. A few hasty jerks snapped the elderly green cords by which it was suspended; then he laid the picture upon the floor and with his handkerchief made a curious labyrinth of avenues in the large oblong area of fine dust which this removal disclosed upon the wall. Pausing to wipe his hot brow with the same implement, he remembered that some one had made allusions to his collar and hair, whereupon he sprang to the stairs, mounted two at a time, rushed into his own room, and confronted his streaked image in the mirror.
AT HOME TO HIS FRIENDS
After ablutions, he found his wet hair plastic, and easily obtained the long, even sweep backward from the brow, lacking which no male person, unless bald, fulfilled his definition of a man of the world. But there ensued a period of vehemence and activity caused by a bent collar-button, which went on strike with a desperation that was downright savage. The day was warm and William was warmer; moisture bedewed him afresh. Belated victory no sooner arrived than he perceived a fatal dimpling of the new collar, and was forced to begin the operation of exchanging it for a successor. Another exchange, however, he unfortunately forgot to make: the handkerchief with which he had wiped the wall remained in his pocket.
Voices from below, making polite laughter, warned him that already some of the bidden party had arrived, and, as he completed the fastening of his third consecutive collar, an ecstasy of sound reached him through the open window—and then, Oh then! his breath behaved in an abnormal manner and he began to tremble. It was the voice of Miss Pratt, no less!
He stopped for one heart-struck look from his casement. All in fluffy white and heliotrope she was—a blonde rapture floating over the sidewalk toward William’s front gate. Her little white cottony dog, with a heliotrope ribbon round his neck, bobbed his head over her cuddling arm; a heliotrope parasol shielded her infinitesimally from the amorous sun. Poor William!
Two youths entirely in William’s condition of heart accompanied the glamorous girl and hung upon her rose-leaf lips, while Miss Parcher appeared dimly upon the outskirts of the group, the well-known penalty for hostesses who entertain such radiance. Probably it serves them right.