Fired by the enthusiasm of his fair vision of a higher journalism, Dr. Surtaine had been walking up and down, enlivening, with swinging arms, the chief points of his Paean of Policy. Now he dropped into his chair and with a change of voice said:
“Never mind about that retraction, Hal.”
“No. Forget it. When do you start in work?”
“You must save to-morrow evening.”
“You’re invited to the Festus Willards’. Mrs. Willard was particularly anxious you should come.”
“But I don’t know them, Dad.”
“Doesn’t matter. It’s about the most exclusive house in town. A cut above me, I can tell you. I’ve never so much as set foot in it.”
“Then I won’t go,” declared his son, flushing.
“Yes: you must,” insisted his father anxiously. “Don’t mind about me. I’m not ambitious socially. I told you some folks don’t like the business. It’s too noisy. But you won’t throw out any echoes. You’ll go, Boyee?”
“Since you want me to, of course, sir. But I shan’t find much time for play if I’m to learn my new trade.”
“Oh, you can hire good teachers,” laughed his father. “Well, I’m sleepy. Good-night, Mr. Editor.”
“Good-night, Dad. I could use some sleep myself.” But thought shared the pillow with Hal Surtaine’s head. Try as he would to banish the contestants, Dr. Surtaine’s Paean of Policy and McGuire Ellis’s impassioned declaration of faith did battle for the upper hand in his formulating professional standards. The Doctor’s theory was the clean-cut, comprehensible, and plausible one. But something within Hal responded to the hot idealism of the fighting journalist. He wanted Ellis for a fellow workman. And his last waking notion was that he wanted and needed Ellis mainly because Ellis had told him to go to hell.
All the adjectives in the social register were exhausted by the daily papers in describing Mrs. Festus Willard’s dance. Without following them into that verbal borderland wherein “recherche” vies with “exclusive,” and “chic” disputes precedence with “distingue,” it is sufficient for the purposes of this narrative to chronicle the fact that the pick of Worthington society was there, and not much else. Also, if I may borrow from the Society Editor’s convenient phrase-book, “Among those present” was Mr. Harrington Surtaine.