In fact it was—to Ramsey. Having begun within only the last few hours to regard haberdashery as of vital importance, and believing his father to be possessed of the experience and authority lacking in himself, Ramsey had come to get him to settle a question which had been upsetting him badly, in his own room, since breakfast. What he want to know was: Whether it was right to wear an extra handkerchief showing out of the coat breast pocket or not, and, if it was right—ought the handkerchief to have a coloured border or to be plain white? But he had never before brought any such perplexities to his father, and found himself too diffident to set them forth.
However, when he left the house, a few minutes later, he boldly showed an inch of purple border above the pocket; then, as he was himself about to encounter several old lady pedestrians, he blushed and thrust the handkerchief down into deep concealment. Having gone a block farther, he pulled it up again; and so continued to operate this badge of fashion, or unfashion, throughout the morning; and suffered a great deal thereby.
Meantime, his father, rather relieved that Ramsey had not told his secret, whatever it was, dismissed the episode from his mind and joined Mrs. Milholland at the front door, ready for church.
“Where’s Ramsey?” he asked.
“He’s gone ahead,” she answered, buttoning her gloves as they went along. “I heard the door quite a little while ago. Perhaps he went over to walk down with Charlotte and Vance. Did you notice how neat he looks this morning?”
“Why, no, I didn’t; not particularly. Does he?”
“I never saw anything like it before,” said Mrs. Milholland. “He went down in the cellar and polished his own shoes.”
“For about an hour, I think,” she said, as one remaining calm before a miracle. “And he only has three neckties, but I saw him several times in each of them. He must have kept changing and changing. I wonder—” She paused.
“I’m glad he’s begun to take a little care of his appearance at last. Business men think a good deal about that, these days, when he comes to make his start in the world. I’ll have to take a look at him and give him a word of praise. I suppose he’ll be in the pew when we get there.”
But Ramsey wasn’t in the pew; and Charlotte, his sister, and her husband, who were there, said they hadn’t seen anything of him. It was not until the members of the family were on their way home after the services that they caught a glimpse of him.
They were passing a church a little distance from their own; here the congregation was just emerging to the open, and among the sedate throng descending the broad stone steps appeared an accompanied Ramsey—and a red, red Ramsey he was when he beheld his father and mother and sister and brother-in-law staring up at him from the pavement below. They were kind enough not to come to an absolute halt, but passed slowly on, so that he was just able to avoid parading up the street in front of them. The expressions of his father, mother, and sister were of a dumfoundedness painful to bear, while such lurking jocosity as that apparent all over his brother-in-law no dignified man should either exhibit or be called upon to ignore.