All over the Hotel de Soto was this same kind of sumptuous magnificence; and Peter experienced the mental effect which it was contrived to produce upon him—a sense of bedazzlement and awe, a realization that those who dwelt in the midst of this splendor were people to whom money was nothing, who could pour out treasures in a never-ceasing flood. And everything else about the place was of the same character, contrived for the same effect—even the gods and the goddesses! One would sweep by with a tiara of jewels in her hair; you might amuse yourself by figuring out the number of the jewels, as you had figured out the number of the boy angels’ heads. Or you might take her gown of black lace, embroidered with golden butterflies, every one patiently done by hand; you might figure—so many yards of material, and so many golden butterflies to the yard! You might count the number of sparkling points upon her jet slippers, or trace the intricate designs upon her almost transparent stockings—only there was an inch or two of the stockings which you could not see.
Peter watched these gorgeous divinities emerge from the elevators, and sweep their way into the dining-room beyond. Some people might have been shocked by their costumes; but to Peter, who had the picture of Mount Olympus in mind, they seemed most proper. It all depended on the point of view: whether you thought of a goddess as fully clothed from chin to toes, and proceeded with a pair of shears to cut away so much of her costume, or whether you imagined the goddess in a state of nature, and proceeded to put veils of gauze about her, and a ribbon over each shoulder to hold the veils in place.
Twice Peter went to the desk, to inquire if Mr. Lackman had come in yet; but still he had not come; and Peter—growing bolder, like the fox who spoke to the lion—strolled about the lobby, gazing at the groups of gods at ease. He had noticed a great balcony around all four sides of this lobby, the “mezzanine floor,” as it was called; he decided he would see what was up there, and climbed the white marble stairs, and beheld more rows of chairs and couches, done in dark grey velvet. Here, evidently, was where the female gods came to linger, and Peter seated himself as unobtrusively as possible, and watched.
Directly in front of him sat a divinity, lolling on a velvet couch with one bare white arm stretched out. It was a large stout arm, and the possessor was large and stout, with pale golden hair and many sparkling jewels. Her glance roamed lazily from place to place. It rested for an instant on Peter, and then moved on, and Peter felt the comment upon his own insignificance.