A Poor Wise Man
Lily had known Alston Denslow most of her life. The children of that group of
families which formed the monied aristocracy of the city knew only their own
small circle. They met at dancing classes, where governesses and occasionally
mothers sat around the walls, while the little girls, in handmade white frocks of
exquisite simplicity, their shining hair drawn back and held by ribbon bows, made
their prim little dip at the door before entering, and the boys, in white Eton collars
and gleaming pumps, bowed from the waist and then dived for the masculine
corner of the long room.
No little girl ever intruded on that corner, although now and then a brave spirit
among the boys would wander, with assumed unconsciousness but ears rather
pink, to the opposite corner where the little girls were grouped like white
butterflies milling in the sun.
The pianist struck a chord, and the children lined up, the girls on one side, the
boys on the other, a long line, with Mrs. Van Buren in the center. Another chord,
rather a long one. Mrs. Van Buren curtsied to the girls. The line dipped, wavered,
recovered itself. Mrs. Van Buren turned. Another chord. The boys bent, rather too
much, from the waist, while Mrs. Van Buren swept another deep curtsey. The
music now, very definite as to time. Glide and short step to the right. Glide and
short step to the left. Dancing school had commenced. Outside were long lines of
motors waiting. The governesses chatted, and sometimes embroidered.
Alton Denslow was generally known as Pink, but the origin of the name was
shrouded in mystery. As "Pink" he had learned to waltz at the dancing class, at a
time when he was more attentive to the step than to the music that accompanied
it. As Pink Denslow he had played on a scrub team at Harvard, and got two
broken ribs for his trouble, and as Pink he now paid intermittent visits to the
Denslow Bank, between the hunting season in October and polo at eastern fields
and in California. At twenty-three he was still the boy of the dancing class, very
careful at parties to ask his hostess to dance, and not noticeably upset when she
did, having arranged to be cut in on at the end of the second round.
Pink could not remember when he had not been in love with Lily Cardew. There
had been other girls, of course, times when Lily seemed far away from
Cambridge, and some other fair charmer was near. But he had always known
there was only Lily. Once or twice he would have become engaged, had it not
been for that. He was a blond boy, squarely built, good-looking without being
handsome, and on rainy Sundays when there was no golf he went quite
cheerfully to St. Peter's with his mother, and watched a pretty girl in the choir.