Page:Court Royal.djvu/188

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herself. She would have kept in the background in the ballroom had she been allowed, but she who had thought of others was thought of by them. The Marquess insisted on her dancing with him, then Lady Grace introduced officers to her. Lord Ronald would not be refused her hand in the lancers. Lord Edward, the Archdeacon, did not dance, but he drew Lucy into a window and talked with her for half-an-hour in an affectionate manner. Whenever Lady Grace passed her in valse, or quadrille, or cotillon, she smiled, and if possible gave her a kindly word. In spite of her efforts to escape, for she was not in good spirits, Lucy was not allowed to retire. She danced as often as any young girl in the room. Her partners liked her. She was unaffected, full of good sense and modesty. About three o’clock in the morning Beavis told his sister he was going home.

‘Papa has the key,’ said she. ‘Our maid, Emily, is here helping. She and that other, Joanna, could not both come tomorrow, so they arranged between them that one should be here to-night and the other be at the tenants’ ball. Papa said she was to go to bed, and that he and you would let yourselves in.’

‘I’ll get the key,’ answered Beavis; ‘then I will sit and smoke in the study till our father comes. I do not suppose he will leave yet.’

‘Oh dear no! not till the last moment; he enjoys the ball as much as a girl does her first coming out.’

Beavis got the key and walked home.

When he left the house, and was in the park, he turned and looked back at the illuminated mansion; the strains of music came to him faintly through the trees. Then the sense of oppression, which had hung over him all the evening in the glitter of the ballroom, descended heavily on his spirits.

Was it possible that the Marquess would continue in the same resolution and marry Miss Rigsby? If he did not, then the earthquake would follow, and engulf not only the Kingsbridge family, but his own. As yet Lord Saltcomhe had shown no token of wavering. He was too honourable a man to shrink from an engagement when once he had passed his word. On this Beavis assured himself that he could rely. As far as he could see the marriage would certainly take place. That which troubled him was not the doubt of its accomplishment, but the probable result afterwards. Was there any prospect of happiness to the Marquess in such an union? There was none—none at all. The characters were incompatible. The marriage