its illimitable treasures of wisdom and experience.
When Claude came to Edgewood for a Sunday, or to spend a vacation
with his aunt, he brought with him something of the magic of a
metropolis. Suddenly, to Rose's eye, Stephen looked larger and
clumsier, his shoes were not the proper sort, his clothes were
ordinary, his neckties were years behind the fashion. Stephen's
dancing, compared with Claude's, was as the deliberate motion of
an ox to the hopping of a neat little robin. When Claude took a
girl's hand in the "grand right-and-left," it was as if he were
about to try on a delicate glove; the manner in which he "held
his lady" in the polka or schottische made her seem a queen.
Mite Shapley was so affected by it that when Rufus attempted to
encircle her for the mazurka she exclaimed, "Don't act as if you
were spearing logs, Rufus!"
Of the two men, Stephen had more to say, but Claude said more. He
was thought brilliant in conversation; but what wonder, when one
considered his advantages and his dazzling experiences! He had
customers who were worth their thousands; ladies whose fingers
never touched dish-water; ladies who wouldn't buy a glove of
anybody else if they went bare-handed to the grave. He lived
with his sister Maude Arthurlena in a house where there were
twenty-two other boarders who could be seated at meals all at the
same time, so immense was the dining-room. He ate his dinner at
a restaurant daily, and expended twenty-five cents for it without
blenching. He went to the theatre once a week, and was often
accompanied by "lady friends" who were "elegant dressers."
In a moment of wrath Stephen had called him a "counter-jumper,"
but it was a libel. So short and rough a means of exit from his
place of power was wholly beneath Claude's dignity. It was with
a "Pardon me, Miss Dir," that, the noon hour having arrived, he
squeezed by that slave and victim, and raising the hinged board
that separated his kingdom from that of the ribbon department,
passed out of the store, hat in hand, serene in the consciousness
that though other clerks might nibble luncheon from a brown paper
bag, he would speedily be indulging in an expensive repast; and
Miss Dir knew it, and it was a part of his almost invincible
attraction for her.
It seemed flying in the face of Providence to decline the
attentions of such a gorgeous butterfly of fashion simply because
one was engaged to marry another man at some distant day.
All Edgewood femininity united in saying that there never was
such a perfect gentleman as Claude Merrill; and during the time
when his popularity was at its height Rose lost sight of the fact
that Stephen could have furnished the stuff for a dozen Claudes
and have had enough left for an ordinary man besides.
April gave place to May, and a veil hung between the lovers,--
an intangible, gossamer-like thing, not to be seen with the nakedDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>