Very close to him, sitting upon the divan in the shadow, was a girl wearing a dress of beautiful silk. She was crying softly, her face in her hands.
Ariel had worked all the afternoon over her mother’s wedding-gown, and two hours were required by her toilet for the dance. She curled her hair frizzily, burning it here and there, with a slate-pencil heated over a lamp chimney, and she placed above one ear three or four large artificial roses, taken from an old hat of her mother’s, which she had found in a trunk in the store-room. Possessing no slippers, she carefully blacked and polished her shoes, which had been clumsily resoled, and fastened into the strings of each small rosettes of red ribbon; after which she practised swinging the train of her skirt until she was proud of her manipulation of it. She had no powder, but found in her grandfather’s room a lump of magnesia, that he was in the habit of taking for heart-burn, and passed it over and over her brown face and hands. Then a lingering gaze into her small mirror gave her joy at last: she yearned so hard to see herself charming that she did see herself so. Admiration came and she told herself that she was more attractive to look at than she had ever been in her life, and that, perhaps, at last she might begin to be sought for like other girls. The little glass showed a sort of prettiness in her thin, unmatured young face; tripping dance-tunes ran through her head, her feet keeping the time,—ah, she did so hope to dance often that night! Perhaps—perhaps she might be asked for every number. And so, wrapping an old waterproof cloak about her, she took her grandfather’s arm and sallied forth, high hopes in her beating heart.
It was in the dressing-room that the change began to come. Alone, at home in her own ugly little room, she had thought herself almost beautiful, but here in the brightly lighted chamber crowded with the other girls it was different. There was a big cheval-glass at one end of the room, and she faced it, when her turn came—for the mirror was popular—with a sinking spirit. There was the contrast, like a picture painted and framed. The other girls all wore their hair after the fashion introduced to Canaan by Mamie Pike the week before, on her return from a visit to Chicago. None of them had “crimped” and none had bedecked their tresses with artificial flowers. Her alterations of the wedding-dress had not been successful; the skirt was too short in front and higher on one side than on the other, showing too plainly the heavy-soled shoes, which had lost most of their polish in the walk through the snow. The ribbon rosettes were fully revealed, and as she glanced at their reflection she heard the words, “Look at that train and those rosettes!” whispered behind her, and saw in the mirror two pretty young women turn away with their handkerchiefs over their mouths and retreat hurriedly to an alcove. All the feet in the room except Ariel’s were in dainty kid or satin slippers of the color of the dresses from which they glimmered out, and only Ariel wore a train.