On the following Wednesday evening there was a dinner-dance at the country club
. When the guests strolled in Bernice found her place-card with a slight feeling of irritation
. Though at her right sat G. Reece Stoddard, a most desirable and distinguished young bachelor
, the all-important left held only Charley Paulson. Charley lacked height, beauty, and social shrewd
ness, and in her new enlightenment Bernice decided that his only qualification to be her partner was that he had never been stuck with her. But this feeling of irritation left with the last of the soup-plates, and Marjorie's specific instruction came to her. Swallowing her pride she turned to Charley Paulson and plunged.
"Do you think I ought to bob my hair, Mr. Charley Paulson?"
Charley looked up in surprise.
"Because I'm considering it. It's such a sure and easy way of attracting attention."
Charley smiled pleasantly. He could not know this had been rehearsed. He replied that he didn't know much about bobbed hair. But Bernice was there to tell him.
"I want to be a society vampire, you see," she announced coolly, and went on to inform him that bobbed hair was the necessary prelude. She added that she wanted to ask his advice, because she had heard he was so critical about girls.
Charley, who knew as much about the psychology of women as he did of the mental states of Buddhist contemplatives, felt vaguely flattered.
"So I've decided," she continued, her voice rising slightly, "that early next week I'm going down to the Sevier Hotel barber-shop, sit in the first chair, and get my hair bobbed." She faltered, noticing that the people near her had paused in their conversation and were listening; but after a confused second Marjorie's coaching told, and she finished her paragraph to the vicinity at large. "Of course I'm charging admission, but if you'll all come down and encourage me I'll issue passes for the inside seats."
There was a ripple of appreciative laughter, and under cover of it G. Reece Stoddard leaned over quickly and said close to her ear: "I'll take a box right now."
She met his eyes and smiled as if he had said something surpassingly brilliant.
"Do you believe in bobbed hair?" asked G. Reece in the same undertone.
"I think it's unmoral," affirmed Bernice gravely. "But, of course, you've either got to amuse people or feed 'em or shock 'em." Marjorie had culled this from Oscar Wilde. It was greeted with a ripple of laughter from the men and a series of quick, intent looks from the girls. And then as though she had said nothing of wit or moment Bernice turned again to Charley and spoke confidentially in his ear.
"I want to ask you your opinion of several people. I imagine you're a wonderful judge of character."
Charley thrilled faintly - paid her a subtle compliment by overturning her water.
Two hours later, while Warren McIntyre was standing passively in the stag line abstractedly watching the dancers and wondering whither and with whom Marjorie had disappeared, an unrelated perception began to creep slowly upon him - a perception that Bernice, cousin to Marjorie, had been cut in on several times in the past five minutes. He closed his eyes, opened them and looked again. Several minutes back she had been dancing with a visiting boy, a matter easily accounted for; a visiting boy would know no better. But now she was dancing with some one else, and there was Charley Paulson headed for her with enthusiastic determination in his eye. Funny - Charley seldom danced with more than three girls an evening.
Warren was distinctly surprised when - the exchange having been effected - the man relieved proved to be none other than G. Reece Stoddard himself. And G. Reece seemed not at all jubilant at being relieved. Next time Bernice danced near, Warren regarded her intently. Yes, she was pretty, distinctly pretty; and to-night her face seemed really vivacious. She had that look that no woman, however histrionically proficient, can successfully counterfeit - she looked as if she were having a good time. He liked the way she had her hair arranged, wondered if it was brilliantine that made it glisten so. And that dress was becoming - a dark red that set off her shadowy eyes and high coloring. He remembered that he had thought her pretty when she first came to town, before he had realized that she was dull. Too bad she was dull - dull girls unbearable - certainly pretty though.
His thoughts zigzagged back to Marjorie. This disappearance would be like other disappearances. When she reappeared he would demand where she had been - would be told emphatically that it was none of his business. What a pity she was so sure of him! She basked in the knowledge that no other girl in town interested him; she defied him to fall in love with Genevieve or Roberta.
Warren sighed. The way to Marjorie's affections was a labyrinth indeed. He looked up. Bernice was again dancing with the visiting boy. Half unconsciously he took a step out from the stag line in her direction, and hesitated. Then he said to himself that it was charity. He walked toward her - collided suddenly with G. Reece Stoddard.
"Pardon me," said Warren.
But G. Reece had not stopped to apologize. He had again cut in on Bernice.
That night at one o'clock Marjorie, with one hand on the electric-light switch in the hall, turned to take a last look at Bernice's sparkling eyes.
"So it worked?"
"Oh, Marjorie, yes!" cried Bernice.
"I saw you were having a gay time."
"I did! The only trouble was that about midnight I ran short of talk. I had to repeat myself - with different men of course. I hope they won't compare notes."
"Men don't," said Marjorie, yawning, "and it wouldn't matter if they did - they'd think you were even trickier."
She snapped out the light, and as they started up the stairs Bernice grasped the banister thankfully. For the first time in her life she had been danced tired.
"You see," said Marjorie at the top of the stairs, "one man sees another man cut in and he thinks there must be something there. Well, we'll fix up some new stuff to-morrow. Good night."
As Bernice took down her hair she passed the evening before her in review. She had followed instructions exactly. Even when Charley Paulson cut in for the eighth time she had simulated delight and had apparently been both interested and flattered. She had not talked about the weather or Eau Claire or automobiles or her school, but had confined her conversation to me, you, and us.
But a few minutes before she fell asleep a rebellious thought was churning drowsily in her brain - after all, it was she who had done it. Marjorie, to be sure, had given her her conversation, but then Marjorie got much of her conversation out of things she read. Bernice had bought the red dress, though she had never valued it highly before Marjorie dug it out of her trunk - and her own voice had said the words, her own lips had smiled, her own feet had danced. Marjorie nice girl - vain, though - nice evening - nice boys - like Warren - Warren - Warren - what's-his-name - Warren----
She fell asleep.
Bernice Bobs Her Hair III Bernice Bobs Her Hair Bernice Bobs Her Hair V