In Which Silken Ladies Ascend One Stairway, and a Lonely Wayfarer Ascends Another and Comes Face to Face With Old Friends.
The big house, standing on a high hill which overlooked the city, showed in the moonlight the grotesque outlines of a composite architecture. Originally it had been a square substantial edifice of Colonial simplicity. A later and less restrained taste had aimed at a castellated effect, and certain peaks and turrets had been added. Three of these turrets were excrescences stuck on, evidently, with an idea of adornment. The fourth tower, however, rounded out and enlarged a room on the third floor. This room was one of a suite, and the rooms were known as the Tower Rooms, and were held by those who had occupied them to be the most desirable in the barn-like building.
To-night the house had taken on an unwonted aspect of festivity. Its spaciousness was checkered by golden-lighted windows. Delivery wagons and automobiles came and went, some discharging loads of deliciousness at the back door, others discharging loads of loveliness at the front.
Following in the wake of one of the front door loads of fluttering femininity came a somewhat somber pedestrian. His steps lagged a little, so that when the big door opened, he was still at the foot of the terrace which led up to it. He waited until the door was shut before he again advanced. In the glimpse that he thus had of the interior, he was aware of a sort of pink effulgence, and in that shining light, lapped by it, and borne up, as it were, by it toward the wide stairway, he saw slender girls in faint-hued frocks—a shimmering celestial company.
As he reached the top of the terrace the door again flew open, and he gave a somewhat hesitating reason for his intrusion.
“I was told to ask for Miss Ballard—Miss Mary Ballard.”
It seemed that he was expected, and that the guardian of the doorway understood the difference between his business and that of the celestial beings who had preceded him.
He was shown into a small room at the left of the entrance. It was somewhat bare, with a few law books and a big old-fashioned desk. He judged that the room might have been put to office uses, but to-night the desk was heaped with open boxes, and odd pieces of furniture were crowded together, so that there was left only a small oasis of cleared space. On the one chair in this oasis, the somber gentleman seated himself.
He had a fancy, as he sat there waiting, that neither he nor this room were in accord with the things that were going on in the big house. Outside of the closed door the radiant guests were still ascending the stairway on shining wings of light. He could hear the music of their laughter, and the deeper note of men’s voices, rising and growing fainter in a sort of transcendent harmony.