On the evening of the fourth of March, year of grace nineteen hundred an_hirty-seven, Mr. Daniel Webster Wanlee devoted several hours to th_onsummation of a rather elaborate toilet. That accomplished, he place_imself before a mirror and critically surveyed the results of his patien_rt.
The effect appeared to give him satisfaction. In the glass he beheld a comel_oung man of thirty, something under the medium stature, faultlessly attire_n evening dress. The face was a perfect oval, the complexion delicate, th_eatures refined. The high cheekbones and a slight elevation of the oute_orners of the eyes, the short upper lip, from which drooped a slender bu_ristocratic mustache, the tapered fingers of the hand, and the remarkabl_mall feet, confined tonight in dancing pumps of polished red morocco, wer_ll unmistakable heirlooms of a pure Mongolian ancestry. The long, stiff,
black hair, brushed straight back from the forehead, fell in profusion ove_he neck and shoulders. Several rich decorations shone on the breast of th_lack broadcloth coat. The knickerbocker breeches were tied at the knees wit_carlet ribbons. The stockings were of a flowered silk. Mr. Wanlee's fac_parked with intelligent good sense; his figure poised itself before the glas_ith easy grace.
A soft, distinct utterance, filling the room yet appearing to proceed from n_articular quarter, now attracted Mr. Wanlee's attention. He at onc_ecognized the voice of his friend, Mr. Walsingham Brown.
"How are we off for time, old fellow?"
"It's getting late," replied Mr. Wanlee, without turning his face from th_irror. "You had better come over directly."
In a very few minutes the curtains at the entrance to Mr. Wanlee's apartment_ere unceremoniously pulled open, and Mr. Walsingham Brown strode in. The tw_riends cordially shook hands.
"How is the honorable member from the Los Angeles district?" inquired th_ewcomer gaily. "And what is there new in Washington society? Prepared t_onquer tonight, I see. What's all this? Red ribbons and flowered silk hose!
Ah, Wanlee. I thought you had outgrown these frivolities!"
The faintest possible blush appeared on Mr. Daniel Webster Wanlee's cheeks.
"It is cool tonight?" he asked, changing the subject.
"Infernally cold," replied his friend. "I wonder you have no snow here. It i_nowing hard in New York. There were at least three inches on the ground jus_ow when I took the Pneumatic."
"Pull an easy chair up to the thermo-electrode," said the Mongolian. "You mus_et the New York climate thawed out of your joints if you expect to walt_reditably. The Washington women are critical in that respect."
Mr. Walsingham Brown pushed a comfortable chair toward a sphere of shinin_latinum that stood on a crystal pedestal in the center of the room. H_ressed a silver button at the base, and the metal globe began to glo_ncandescently. A genial warmth diffused itself through the apartment. "Tha_eels good," said Mr. Walsingham Brown, extending both hands to catch the hea_rom the thermo-electrode.
"By the way," he continued, "you haven't accounted to me yet for the scarle_ows. What would your constituents say if they saw you thus— you, th_mpassioned young orator of the Pacific slope; the thoughtful student o_rogressive statesmanship; the mainstay and hope of the Extreme Left; th_horn in the side of conservative Vegetarianism; the bete noire of the whol_ndo-European gang—you, in knee ribbons and florid extensions, like a club ma_t a fashionable Harlem hop, or a—"
Mr. Brown interrupted himself with a hearty but goodnatured laugh.
Mr. Wanlee seemed ill at ease. He did not reply to his friend's raillery. H_ast a stealthy glance at his knees in the mirror, and then went to one sid_f the room, where an endless strip of printed paper, about three feet wide,
was slowly issuing from between noiseless rollers and falling in neat fold_nto a willow basket placed on the floor to receive it. Mr. Wanlee bent hi_ead over the broad strip of paper and began to read attentively.
"You take the Contemporaneous News, I suppose," said the other.
"No, I prefer the Interminable Intelligencer," replied Mr. Wanlee. "Th_ontemporaneous is too much of my own way of thinking. Why should a sensibl_an ever read the organ of his own party? How much wiser it is to keep poste_n what your political opponents think and say."
"Do you find anything about the event of the evening?"
"The ball has opened," said Mr. Wanlee, "and the floor of the Capitol i_lready crowded. Let me see," he continued, beginning to read aloud: "'Th_ealth, the beauty, the chivalry, and the brains of the nation combine to len_nprecedented luster to the Inauguration Ball, and the brilliant success o_he new Administration is assured beyond all question.'"
"That is encouraging logic," Mr. Brown remarked.
"'President Trimbelly has just entered the rotunda, escorting his beautifu_nd stately wife, and accompanied by ex-President Riley, Mrs. Riley, and Mis_orah Riley. The illustrious group is of course the cynosure of all eyes. Th_tmost cordiality prevails among statesmen of all shades of opinion. For once,
bitter political animosities seem to have been laid aside with the ordinar_abiliments of everyday wear. Conspicuous among the guests are some of th_ost distinguished radicals of the opposition. Even General Quong, th_efeated Mongol-Vegetarian candidate, is now proceeding across the rotunda,
leaning on the arm of the Chinese ambassador, with the evident intention o_aying his compliments to his successful rival. Not the slightest trace o_esentment or hostility is visible upon his strongly marked Asiatic features.'
"The hero of the Battle of Cheyenne can afford to be magnanimous," remarke_r. Wanlee, looking up from the paper.
"True," said Mr. Walsingham Brown, warmly. "The noble old hoodlum fighter ha_ettled forever the question of the equality of your race. The presidenc_ould have added nothing to his fame."
Mr. Wanlee went on reading: "'The toilets of the ladies are charming. Notabl_mong those which attract the reportorial eye are the peacock feather train o_he Princess Hushyida; the mauve—'"
"Cut that," suggested Mr. Brown. "We shall see for ourselves presently. An_ive me a dinner, like a good fellow. It occurs to me that I have eate_othing for fifteen days."
The Honorable Mr. Wanlee drew from his waistcoat pocket a small gold box, ova_n form. He pressed a spring and the lid flew open. Then he handed the box t_is friend. It contained a number of little gray pastilles, hardly larger tha_eas. Mr. Brown took one between his thumb and forefinger and put it into hi_outh. "Thus do I satisfy mine hunger," he said, "or, to borrow the languag_f the opposition orators, thus do I lend myself to the vile and degradin_ractice, subversive of society as at present constituted, and outraging th_ery laws of nature."
Mr. Wanlee was paying no attention. With eager gaze he was again scanning th_olumns of the Interminable Intelligencer. As if involuntarily, he read aloud:
"'-Secretary Quimby and Mrs. Quimby, Count Schneeke, the Austrian ambassador,
Mrs. Hoyette and the Misses Hoyette of New York, Senator Newton o_assachusetts, whose arrival with his lovely daughter is causing no smal_ensation—'"
He paused, stammering, for he became aware that his friend was regarding hi_arnestly. Coloring to the roots of his hair, he affected indifference an_egan to read again: "'Senator Newton of Massachusetts, whose arrival with hi_ovely-"'
"I think, my dear boy," said Mr. Walsingham Brown, with a smile, "that it i_igh time for us to proceed to the Capitol."