Page:Court Royal.djvu/187

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as it drew on, added sweetness to her face; it gave expression where it withdrew bloom.

Miss Rigsby flared by in yellow and red; the Misses Sheepwash were in the same quadrille, hot with dancing, their cheeks aflame, and their fans working vigorously; they were bouncing girls.

Beavis turned his eyes away. He looked at his partner, moving easily, without exertion, full of grace in every undulation. It was a delight to the eye to rest on her.

She did not look at Beavis during the dance. When he had the chance he said, ‘I have offended you—’

‘No, you cannot do that; only disappointed me.’

‘I cannot help myself. I am obliged to say, Trust me. I can do no other. Rely on me that I advise nothing which is not best for your brother and your family; best attainable, I mean, not ideally best.’

He had to lead her across in the dance. She slightly pressed his hand. It was to say, ‘I trust.’

When she returned to his side she said, ‘Do me a favour. Poor Miss Stokes is sitting yonder, the picture of woebegonedness. Please me by dancing once with her. You do not know how dreadful the world seems to a young lady who has been a wallflower one whole night. A single round alters the aspect of life.’

In the country there is generally a preponderance of ladies at a ball. It was not so on this occasion at Court Royal. Officers had been invited from Plymouth and Exeter, so that every young lady—except Miss Stokes, who was not young, but refused to consider herself old—found a partner, and every young lady said afterwards that this was the most perfect ball she had ever attended. Even Miss Stokes said it was a nice ball. She danced twice with Beavis. Beavis was not obliged to dance. He preferred looking on. He watched Miss Rigsby, and he saw that she was flattered with the attentions of the Marquess, and that, so far as her cold nature could feel affection, she loved him. Her eyes followed him when he danced with another, with an expression in them much like jealousy. Lucy had been compulsorily relieved of her superintendentship of preparations for, and conduct of the ball, by Lady Elizabeth Eveleigh, who on her arrival took everything upon herself. Lady Elizabeth was full of system, and Lucy was obliged to admit that everything went more smoothly; the servants became more prompt under the rule of Lady Elizabeth than under