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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

Morton Bassett was the person most observed of all observers


Miss

Bassett's debut was fixed for Washington's Birthday, and as Mrs. Owen's house had no ballroom (except one of those floored attics on which our people persist in bestowing that ambitious title) she decided that the Propylaeum alone would serve. Pray do not reach for your dictionary, my friend! No matter how much Greek may have survived your commencement day, you would never know that our Propylaeum (reared by the women of our town in North Street, facing the pillared facade of the Blind Institute) became, on its completion in 1890, the centre of our intellectual and social life. The club "papers" read under that roof constitute a literature all the nobler for the discretion that reserves it for atrabilious local criticism; the later editions of our _jeunesse doree_ have danced there and Boxed and Coxed as Dramatic Club stars on its stage. "Billy" Sumner once lectured there on "War" before the Contemporary Club, to say nothing of Mr. James's appearance (herein before mentioned), which left us, filled with wildest surmise, on the crest of a new and ultimate Darien. Nor shall I omit that memorable tea to the Chinese lady when the press became so great that a number of timorous Occidentals in their best bib and tucker departed with all possible dignity by way of the fire-escape. So the place being historic, as things go in a new country, Mrs. Owen did not, in vulgar parlance, "hire a hall," but gave her party in a social temple of loftiest consecration.

It

was a real winter night, with a snowstorm and the jangle of sleigh-bells outside. The possibilities of a hall famed for its many brilliant entertainments had never been more fully realized than on this night of Marian Bassett's presentation. The stage was screened in a rose-hung lattice that had denuded the conservatories of Newcastle and Richmond; the fireplace was a bank of roses, and the walls were festooned in evergreens. Nor should we overlook a profile of the father of his country in white carnations on a green background, with all the effect of a marble bas-relief,--a fitting embellishment for the balcony,--done by the florist from Allen's design and under Allen's critical eye.

In the receiving line, established in one of the lower parlors, were Mrs. Owen, Mr. and Mrs. Morton Bassett, the Governor and his wife (he happened just then to be a Republican), Colonel and Mrs. Vinning (retired army people), and the pick of the last October's brides and their young husbands. We may only glance hurriedly at the throng who shook Mrs. Owen's hand, and were presented to Mr. and Mrs. Bassett and by them in turn to their daughter. Every one remarked how stunning the hostess looked (her gown was white, and in the latest fashion, too,--none of your quaint old lace and lavender for Aunt Sally!), and what amusing things she said to her guests as they filed by, knowing them all and in her great good heart loving them all! It is something to be an Aunt Sally where the name is a synonym for perpetual youth and perpetual kindness and helpfulness. (And if Aunt Sally didn't live just a little way down my own street, and if she hadn't bribed me not to "put her in a book" with a gift of home-cured hams from her Greene County farm last Christmas, there are many more things I should like to say of her!)

Since the little affair of the "Courier" Morton Bassett had fought shy of his wife's aunt; but to-night he stood beside her, enjoying, let us hope, the grim humor of his juxtaposition to the only person who had ever blocked any of his enterprises. Nothing escaped Mrs. Bassett, and her heart softened toward her politician husband as she saw that next to her aunt and Marian (a daughter to be proud of to-night!) Morton Bassett was the person most observed of all observers. She noted the glances bent upon him by the strangers to whom he was introduced, and many acquaintances were at pains to recall themselves to him. Her husband was a presentable man anywhere, and she resolved to deal more leniently with his offenses in future. The governorship or a seat in the United States Senate would amply repay her for the heartaches so often communicated by the clipping bureau.


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