Page:Court Royal.djvu/372

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Mount Batten, Lord and Lady Laira, Sir John and Lady St. Austell, patronised the ball, and gave it the stamp of selectness. The generals and their ladies, the admirals and their parties, all the J.P.s and the J.P. fowl attended, and added their insistence to its selectness. The ball was so select that it hedged itself round with the most exclusive and arbitrary restrictions. It drew a line here, and a line there. It put its foot down at this point, and at that, for no reason possible of explanation to anyone without the bump of selection on his skull. The ball was so select that no lady with the soil of trade on her fingers could hold them out for a ticket. It was so select that, of the Church, only the wives and daughters of rectors might enter; the females whose orbit is in a Peel district and revolve about vicars and curates, were shut out. It was so select that the family of the wine-merchant were as rigidly excluded as the family of the pastry-cook who united with the wine-merchant to furnish the supper.

On the Cornish coast folk say, when the wind wails at the windows, that the ghosts of drowned sailors are without, flattening their spiritual noses against the panes, dabbing their dripping palms against the glass, weeping because excluded in wind and rain from the warmth and light within. Outside the great assembly-room, the spirits of unnumbered women wept and wrung their hands. The ball was too select for them. Let them dance on their own low levels, and not aspire to circle in the system of the social planets.

This Easter ball was quite a different affair from the October and the hunt balls, when the room was occupied by cliques, and the cliques danced together, ignoring the cliques below them, and went to supper and ate in cliques, and talked in cliques, and flirted in cliques, and clacked in cliques. This ball was emphatically a one-clique ball.

Yet, into this most select of balls Joanna thrust herself. This was how it was done.

Mr. Lazarus had lent money to the Hon. Mrs. Yellowleaf, and he sent her a note to say that unless the loan were repaid by a certain date, he would County Court her.

Mrs. Yellowleaf came down to his private office in great trepidation. She had not the money; she was in daily expectation of a remittance from an aunt. She entreated Mr. Lazarus to delay. Mr. Lazarus was inexorable. He wanted his money. He had heavy bills to meet by a certain day.