"Evan Anderson called
you up this afternoon,"
said Mrs. Tom Porter, laying
down the evening paper. "Is
his wife still away?"
"Yes, I think she
is. What did he want?"
"He did not say, but
he said for you to call
him as soon as you came
home. I forgot to tell you."
Mrs. Porter paused and fingered
her paper with embarrassment.
"Tom," she began
again, "if it is another
of those men parties he
has been having since his
wife has been away, I wish
you wouldn't go."
"Why not, dear?"
"I don't think they
are very nice. Don't they
drink a good deal?"
"Some men will drink
a good deal any way-any
time, but those that don't
want to do not."
"Tom, do they"-Mrs.
Porter's eyes were on the
paper in her lap-"do
they play-play poker?"
"Why what made you
ask me that question?"
Tom answered with some embarrassment.
"Mrs. Bob Miller said
her husband told her they
"Nobody but Mrs. Miller
would believe all that Bob
"But you know it is
wicked to gamble?"
"Of course it is,
to gamble for any amount,
but just a little game for
amusement, that's not bad."
"How much does any
one win or lose?"
"Oh, just a few dollars."
"That would buy a
dinner for several poor
families that need it; but
the worst of it is the principle;
it is gambling, no matter
how little is lost or won."
"But, dear, you brought
home a ten-dollar plate
from a card party the other
"That is different.
One is euchre, the other
"I see there is a
difference; but wouldn't
the plate have bought a
"Yes, but if I had
not won it some one else
would. And it was too late
to spend it for charity.
I don't believe it cost
ten dollars anyway."
"You said then it
"But I have looked
it over since and do not
believe it is genuine. I
should think any one would
be ashamed to give an imitation,"
she added with something
like a flash in her blue
"It was a shame," Tom
admitted, "a ten-dollar strain
for a two-dollar plate."
But Mrs. Porter merely raised
her eyebrows at this rather mean
"The Tad-Wallington dance
is to-night, isn't it? Do you
want to go to that?" Tom
"No, I'm not going."
"If you do," Tom went
on, "I will take you and
cut out whatever Evan wants."
"No, I don't care to,"
she repeated. "You can go
to the other if you want to. I
am not going to say any more on
the subject. I do not ask you
to humor my little whims, but
I wanted to say what I did before
Mrs. Porter looked at her husband
with such a wistful, pathetic
little smile that Tom came over
and kissed her on the cheek.
"I'll not go," he exclaimed,
"if that is what he wants.
I'll stay at home with you."
"You are too good, Tom.
I suspect I am silly, but it seems
so wicked. Now you had better
call him up."
When Tom got upstairs, he placed
the receiver to his ear.
Tom: "Give me seven-eleven,
"Yes, please." Tom
whistled while he waited.
"Is that you, Evan?"
("Yes. Hello, Tom. Say,
Tom, I am going to have a little
bunch around here after a bit
to see if we can't make our books
balance, and I want you to come.
And say, bring around that forty-five
you took away with you last time.
We want it. We are after you.
We are going to strip you. Perhaps
you had better bring an extra
suit in a case.")
"Listen. This is the scheme.
I'll come if I can," he whispered
into the receiver. "I don't
think the Mis'es wants to go to
the Tad-Wallington dance, and I'll
work it so that I shall go alone.
If I succeed I'll be with you."
("What? What's that?")
"I say," he repeated
more distinctly, "if Mrs.
P. doesn't want to go to the dance
I'll try to go by myself and shall
be with you."
("You say that you and Mrs.
P. are going to the dance.")
"Oh, you deaf fool! No!
I say that if she doesn't go to
the dance maybe I shall-be-with-you."
("Oh, I understand you.
Good. If you are as clever as
you are at getting every one in
against a pat full-house you will
succeed. Come early. Luck to you.
If Tom were right in thinking
he had closed the parlor door
he was considerably surprised
and flustered to find it ajar
when he came down stairs. But
Mrs. Porter was still reading
the evening paper and did not
look as if she had been disturbed
by the telephoning. There was
a slight flush on her cheeks,
however, that he had not noticed
before, but that may have been
caused by the noble sacrifice
of his own wishes for hers.
"I am glad, Tom, you told
him you could not come,"
Mrs. Porter said, looking at him
affectionately. "It is so
good of you to give up to my little
Tom said mentally: "I guess
she did not hear it all, at least."
"I know," she went
on, "that I was brought up
on a narrow plane, and any sort
of gambling seems wicked."
"But at first you would
not play cards at all, and then
you learned euchre. All games
of cards look alike to me."
"I suppose they do, but
euchre is a simple, interesting
pastime; whist is a scientific-a-a-mental-exercise,
developing the mind, and so forth,
while poker cheats people out
of their money,-at least, they
lose money they ought to use other
ways,-or else they win some and
then have ill-gotten gains, which
"But poker is a great nerve
developer," Tom protested
"But it's gambling."
"Well, how about playing
euchre for a prize?"
"Oh we settled that a while
ago," Mrs. Porter exclaimed.
"I showed you the difference
between the two, didn't I?"
"I believe you did. But
don't you want to go to the Tad-Wallington
"I don't like Mrs. Tad-Wallington.
She wears her dresses too low."
"Maybe she does, but I think
we should be polite to her."
"I don't care very much
whether we are or not."
"I think we ought to go.
Or else," he added in an
afterthought with the expression
of a martyr, "or else I ought
to go and take your regrets."
"Well, why don't you do
that?" Mrs. Porter exclaimed
"All right, I will!"
he almost shouted. "I'll
do it. I think it's the decent
thing to do. I'll get ready right
"Right now? Why, it's entirely
too early. It's only half-past
seven. You can stay here until
ten, then go for a few minutes
and be back by eleven."
"No, no, that would not
be nice. That's not the way to
treat people who have gone to
the expense of giving a dance.
Everybody should go early and
"No, it's decent. I think
I had better go early anyway,
and then I can get back earlier.
I don't want to stay up too late."
"Well, if you insist, go
Tom went upstairs and began dressing
hurriedly. He knew he would not
feel safe until he was a square
away from the house. If this was
to be the last of these bully,
bachelor, poker parties he did
not want to miss it. His wife
was the sweetest little woman
on earth, and he delighted in
being with her, and humoring her,
but then a woman's view of life
and things is often so different
that there is a joyous relaxation
in a man party. If he could dress
and get away before his wife changed
her mind all would be well. He
put his clothes on feverishly,
but before he had half finished
he heard her running up the stairs,
and his heart sank. She came with
the step that indicated something
important on her mind. He knew
as well how she looked as if he
could see her coming. She was
humped over slightly, her head
was down, both hands grasping
her skirts in front, and her feet
fairly glimmering at the speed
she was coming.
She burst into the room. "Tom,
I think I will go with you. It is
mean of me to make you go alone."
"You think what? You can't,
it's a men's party. Oh, you-'Y,
no, it's not mean. I don't mind
it a bit. I like to go alone-that
is, I don't mind it, and I won't
hear to your putting yourself
out on my account. And then you
know, Mrs. Tad-Wallington wears
her dresses so disgustingly low."
"That's it, Tom. That's
why I think I ought to go."
"Oh, pshaw. You know I despise
her. I never dance with her. No,
I can't think of letting you go
on my account. And I don't want
my wife even to be seen at the
party of a woman who wears such
dresses as she does. No! positively,
I can't permit it."
"Well, it's as bad for you
"But one of us has to go
to be decent. It would be rude
not to, and we can not afford
to be rude even to the commonest
"I don't want you to go
unless I go with you," she
"But I never dance with
"It is not that so much.
I do not want us to recognize
her at all."
"I am not going to even
speak to her. I will snub her.
I will walk by her and not see
her. I will let her know that
my little wife doesn't belong
to her class. I'll show her."
"But, Tom, wouldn't that
be ruder than not going at all?"
"Oh, no. I don't think so.
By going and snubbing her, it
shows that you are conforming
to all the laws of politeness
without conceding anything to
wanton impropriety. Don't you
"Well, it does. And I have
to go for business reasons. I
have her husband's law business,
and can't afford to lose it by
"Wouldn't it make her husband
angry for you to snub her?"
"Oh, no, it would rather
please him. He is inclined to
be jealous, and likes the men
better who don't have anything
to do with her. It would strengthen
our business relations immensely."
"Maybe you are right,"
she added with resignation. "You
lawyers have such peculiar arguments
that I can't understand them."
"Yes, I know. Law is the
science of reasoning-of getting
at the fine, subtile points which
other people can not see."
"Well, go, if you really
think it's best," she said
Tom tied a black bow around his
collar and put on his tuxedo.
"Oh, Tom, what do you mean?
You surely do not intend to wear
your tuxedo and a black tie. I heard
you say it was the worst of form
at anything but a men's party."
"Oh, ah, did I? Well, maybe
I did. I had forgotten. I became
a little confused by our long
argument. I am always confused
after an argument. Would you believe
it, the other day after an argument
in court I put on the judge's
overcoat when I came away and
did not notice it until I got
to the office? You think I had
better wear a long coat and white
"Of course. I want you to
be the best-dressed man there.
I don't want you to look as if
you were at a smoker."
Tom wheeled toward his wife,
but she was digging in a drawer
for his white tie and may not
have meant anything.
"Now don't tell me you have
none. Here is one fresh and crisp.
You would not disgrace us by going
to a dance dressed that way?"
"I will do whatever you
say, dear," Tom answered,
with a trace of suspicion still
in his eye.
He put on his long coat and the
tie, and when he kissed his wife
adieu she patted him affectionately
on the cheek.
"It is good of you to go
to this old dance and let me stay
at home," she said, smiling
sweetly at him. "Have as
good a time as you can and be
sure to see what Mrs. Harris wears."
When Tom got into the street
he drew a long breath of fresh
air, and then lighted a cigarette
to quiet his nerves.
"I've got to go to that
party for a few minutes,"
he said to himself, "or I
may get caught when I come to
take my examination to-morrow
morning. I can't possibly make
up a whole lot about dresses.
And then some woman may tell Ruth
that I was not there. Let's see,"
he looked at his watch, "it's
nearly nine. Some people will
be there. I can look them over
and then take a few notes about
the dressing-room as I come away."
Tom paused but a moment in the
dressing-room, where a few oldish
men waited for their fat, rejuvenated
wives, and some young stags smoked
cigarettes until the buds could
get up to the hall.
The young Mrs. Tad-Wallington
received him with a gracious smile
and inquired for Mrs. Porter.
"A blinding headache,"
said Tom. "She was determined
to come until the last minute,
but then had to give it up."
The old Mr. Tad-Wallington took
one hand from behind his back
to give it to Tom, and for a moment
almost lost that tired, married-to-a-young-woman
"How a' you, Tom?"
he said. "Did you find out
anything about that Barnesville
business? Can you levy on Harmon's
"I haven't looked any further,
but I still think you can."
"Call me up as soon as you
Tom was pushed away by a large
wife with a little husband whom
the hostess was presenting to
Mr. Tad-Wallington, and this couple
was followed by an extremely tall
man who had apparently become
stoop-shouldered talking to his
very small wife. Tom sidled around
where he could see the people
as they came, and began making
"Mrs. Tad-Wallington, dressed
in a kind of silverish flowered-brocaded,
I guess-stuff, with a bunch of
white carnations-no, little roses.
Blond hair done up with a kind
of a roach that lops over at one
side of her forehead." "There
are our namesakes, the John Porters.
Mrs. John has a banana colored
dress with a sort of mosquito
netting all over it. She's got
one red rose pinned on in front."
"There are the three Long
sisters, one pink, one white,
and one blue. Pink and white are
fluffy goods. But Ruth'll not
care how girls are dressed. It's
the women." "Here's
a queen in black. Who is it? Oh,
Lord! I am sorry I saw her face.
It's Mrs. May --, the Irish washerwoman,
as Ruth calls her. And who's the
Cleopatra with the silver snake
around her arm, and the silver
do-funnies around her waist? Oh,
Bess Smith! I am getting so many
details I'll have 'em all mixed
up the first thing I know. Let
me see, who had on the red dress?
Ding, I've forgotten. I'd better
write them down."
He got a card from his pocket
and began writing abbreviated
descriptions on it. "Mrs.
R. strp. slk." "Mrs.
J. J. white; h. of a long train."
"Sm. Small brt. Mrs. Jones,
wid." He filled up two cards
and then slipped to the dressing-room
"Solomon could not beat
that trick. I can tell Sweetheart
more than she could have found
out herself if she had come. Now
for something that's a little
more fun." He chuckled at
his cleverness as he stepped on
a car to go the faster to his
more fascinating party.
And he chuckled the following
morning as he dressed.
"They were going to strip
me, were they," he said to
himself, as he pulled a small
roll of bills from the vest pocket
of his dress suit. "Well,
not quite. Let me see. I had nineteen
dollars with me. Now I have five,
ten, and ten are twenty, and five
are twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven,
twenty-eight, and two are thirty,
thirty-one. And some change. That's
not stripping, anyway."
He laughed again as he pulled
two cards from his pocket and
saw his memoranda of dresses.
"Good thought. I'd better
read them over, for the morning
paper may contain some description,
and I'd like to make good. 'Mrs.
Paton, wht. slk.' white silk.
'Mrs. Mull, d. t.' d. t.? What
does d. t. stand for? d. t.? I
can't think of anything but delirium
tremens, but that's not it. D.
t. Dark-dark what? Dark trous-No.
Dark tresses? Not that, either.
Dark-trousseau? Hardly that. She's
just married, but she didn't have
her whole trousseau on. Dark-?
Search me, I don't know. 'Mrs.
B.' Mrs. Brown, 'l. d.' Long dress?
Lawn dress? No, lavender dress,
I remember. This cipher is worse
than the one in the 'Gold Bug.'
I wish I had written it out."
Some of the things he could interpret
and some he could not, but he
could remember none when he took
his eyes away from the card.
He found his wife waiting for
him in the breakfast room, dressed
in a blue tea-gown, and she looked
so charming that he could not refrain
from taking two kisses from her
red lips. She put her arms around
his neck and took one of them back
"How are you this morning?
Did you have a good time at the
"Oh, so-so," Tom answered.
"I've had better."
"Breakfast is ready. Now
tell me all about it while we
"Well, it was just like
all others. Same people there,
dressed about the same. I was
in hopes you would read about
it in the morning paper and let
me off. That would give you a
better account of it than I can."
"But I want to hear about
it from your point of view. Did
anything of any special importance
happen? Whom did you dance with?"
There was a sharp questioning
look in Mrs. Porter's eyes, that
Tom, if he noticed it at all,
took in a masculine way to indicate
a touch of jealousy.
"No, nothing of any note.
I danced with about the same people
I do usually. Mrs. DeBruler, I
"You think? That's complimentary
to her. How was she dressed?"
"Oh, ah; (mentally) 'bl.
slk.' Blue silk or black silk,
which was it? (Aloud) Blue silk,
"Blue silk! My, she oughtn't
to wear blue. What's that card
you have in your hand, your program?"
"Yes, I wanted to see whom
else I danced with."
"Oh, let me see," Mrs.
"Well, it is-that is, I
was just looking for my program.
I can't find it. I must have lost
"Oh, that is too bad. I
wanted to see it. Did you dance
"No, not many. Just a few
people we are under obligations
"How late did you stay?"
Mrs. Porter asked, as she passed
him his second cup of coffee.
"About midnight, I think."
"Oh, where were you after
that? You didn't get home until
"M'm, my, this coffee's
hot! One? Did you say one? The
clock must have been striking
"No, I am sure it was after
one, because I laid awake for
a while and heard it strike two."
"May be you are right. I
did not look. But lots of people
were still there when I left. Do
you like the two-step better than
"Yes, I do. But that was
on Sunday-after twelve o'clock.
Weren't you ashamed to dance on
"I think I like the waltz
better. The waltz is to the two-step
what the minuet is to the jig.
Don't you think so now? Young
Mrs. Black is a splendid waltzer.
Next to you, she is about the
"Well, I do not care to
be compared with her. And I hope
you didn't dance with her. She,
divorced and married again, and
not twenty-four yet!"
"I don't see as much harm
in a young woman being divorced
as an old one."
"I do. They ought to live
together long enough to know if
their troubles are real."
"I always thought Mr. Hughes
was real nice. Did you find your
"No, I must have lost it."
They rose from the breakfast
table and went, arm in arm, to
the sitting-room. They divided
the morning paper and sat in silence
for a while. Tom went over the
first page, read the prospects
for war between Russia and Japan,
then the European despatches,
and then came to the page with
the city news. He glanced carelessly
over it, seeing little to attract
him. By and by his eyes returned
to a column that he had passed
because calamities did not interest
him, something about an explosion.
When he came to it the second
time his eyes fell on one of the
subheadings and it made him catch
his breath. He read the headlines
from the top.
"Great Heavens!" he
said to himself, and shot a glance
at his wife from the corners of
his eyes. "Lord, I am in
The heading that he saw was:
Terrific Explosion at a Ball.
Panic Barely Averted.
Mrs. Tad-Wallington's Dance Interrupted.
Fire Ensued, but no Great Damage
Many of the Women Fainted.
He then read the article through
to see if there was any loop-hole,
but found that the explosion had
occurred, perhaps, before he was
five squares away-about a quarter
of ten, in fact. And he had admitted
to his wife that he had stayed
there until late at night!
"She mustn't see this page,"
he said to himself. "I must
get it out of here and burn it."
He glanced at his wife again.
She was reading her sheet interestedly.
He separated the part that contained
the city news and was preparing
to smuggle it from the room under
"Here is the account of the
dance," she exclaimed, looking
up, "and you need not tell
me any more-"
"The dance, and I can read
"Did we get two papers this
morning?" Tom stammered,
feeling cold about the heart.
"No, I have the society
sheet, and it tells what everybody
wore-Why, what is the matter with
you, Tom? You look sick. You are
not sick, are you, Tom?"
she asked, rising and coming over
"No, no, I am not sick.
I am all right. Go on and read
the description of the dresses;
that will relieve me more than
anything else. I'll not have to
think it all up."
"Oh, but you look sick."
"I am not; I am-I never
was so well. See how strong I
am. I can crush that piece of
paper up into a very small ball
with my bare hands. I am awfully
"Oh, don't do that. There
may be something in it that I
want to read."
"No, there isn't. There's
nothing in it. I read it through.
I have an idea. I'll tell you
what let's do. Let's burn the
paper and I'll tell you what the
women wore. These society notes
are written beforehand and are
not authentic. The only way is
to have it from an eye-witness.
Let's do it, will you?"
"No, I would rather read
it. Aren't you sick, Tom? What
makes your brow so damp?"
"It's so hot, it's infernally
hot in here."
"I thought it was rather
cold. I saw you shiver a moment
ago. Tom, you are sick. You must
have eaten too much salad last
night. You know you can't eat
"I didn't touch any salad.
I only ate a frankfurter and drank
"A frankfurter and a high-ball!
Why, what sort of refreshments
did they have?"
"I didn't mean that. I meant
a canary-bird sandwich and a glass
"I know what it is then,
Tom. You inhaled a lot of the
Tom took a long hard look at
his wife. "What!" he
almost screamed at last.
"I say you have inhaled
too much smoke. You have been
smoking too much."
She looked at him with a twinkle
in her eye as she sat on the arm
of his chair, holding to the back
with her hands.
"Tom, I'll bet you are a
"I'll bet I'm not."
"I'll bet you are, and are
too modest to admit it."
"Too modest to admit what?"
"Too modest to admit the
heroic things you have done."
"I never did any."
"Yes, you did. I know you
saved two or three people's lives
at the risk of your own."
"I haven't any medals."
"But you must have done something
brave, and that's why you didn't
tell me about the explosion."
Tom did not answer. The machinery
of his voice would not turn. The
power ran through his throat like
cogwheels out of gear.
"My dear, sweet, brave,
"I-I'm not all of that."
"Yes you are. You were the
bravest man there. How many fainting
women did you rescue?"
"Oh, not many. I think only
five or six."
"Did you inhale much of
the flame and smoke?"
"Yes, I think I must have
inhaled some, but I did not notice
it until now."
"Was the smoke very thick?"
"Awfully thick in places."
"And you walked right into
"I had to. There wasn't
any way to ride."
"I mean I walked into the
smoke. I don't know what I am
saying. You must be right. I am
"How brave my husband is.
How proud I am of him. And not
only brave but skilful. How did
you manage to go through the smoke
and flame and get no odor of smoke
on your clothes, nor smut the
front of your shirt?"
"I don't know, dear. I did
not have time to notice. I was
"Ah, my hero! I am proud
of you. Did you win or lose?"
"Did I what?"
"Did you win or lose?"
Tom took another look into her
innocent blue eyes.
"Which?" she repeated.
"Ruth, what have you been
doing to me?"
"Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"
"Don't I look it?"
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