“I paid six hundred and fifty for the rattletrap, and I couldn’t afford that,” he almost whimpered. “You were happy with it until I was elected mayor.”
“You forget our social position, my dear,” she purred sweetly.
He could have struck her. “Hang your social position,” he gritted savagely. “Shut up, will you? Social position in a sawmill town! Rats!”
“Sh—sh! Control yourself, Henry!” She plucked gently at his arm; with her other hand she lifted the huge knocker on the front door.
“Dammit, you’ll drive me crazy yet,” Poundstone gurgled, and subsided.
The Pennington butler, a very superior person, opened the door and swept them with a faintly disapproving glance. It is possible that he found Mayor Poundstone, who was adorned with a white string tie, a soft slouch hat, a Prince Albert coat, and horseshoe cut vest, mildly amusing.
The Poundstones entered. At the entrance to the living room the butler announced sonorously: “Mayor Poundstone and Mrs. Poundstone.”
“Glad to see you aboard the ship,” Colonel Pennington boomed with his best air of hearty expansiveness. “Well, well,” he continued, leading Mrs. Poundstone to a divan in front of the fire, “this is certainly delightful. My niece will be down in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Have a cigarette, Mr. Poundstone.”
In the midst of the commonplace chatter incident to such occasions, Shirley entered the room; and the Colonel, leaving her to entertain the guests, went to a small sideboard in one corner and brought forth the “materials,” as he jocularly termed them. James appeared like magic with a tray, glasses, and tiny serviettes, and the Colonel’s elixir was passed to the company.
“To your beautiful eyes, Mrs. Poundstone,” was Pennington’s debonair toast as he fixed Mrs. P.’s green orbs with his own. “Poundstone, your very good health, sir.”
“Dee-licious,” murmured Mrs. Poundstone. “Perfectly dee-licious. And not a bit strong!”
“Have another,” her hospitable host suggested, and he poured it, quite oblivious of the frightened wink which the mayor telegraphed his wife.
“I will, if Miss Sumner will join me,” Mrs. P. acquiesced.
“Thanks. I seldom drink a cocktail, and one is always my limit,” Shirley replied smilingly.
“Oh, well,” the Colonel retorted agreeably, “we’ll make it a three-cornered festival. Poundstone, smoke up.”
They “smoked up,” and Poundstone prayed to his rather nebulous gods that Mrs. P. would not discuss automobiles during the dinner.
Alas! The Colonel’s cocktails were not unduly fortified, but for all that, the two which Mrs. Poundstone had assimilated contained just sufficient “kick” to loosen the lady’s tongue without thickening it. Consequently, about the time the piece de resistance made its appearance, she threw caution to the winds and adverted to the subject closest to her heart.