Page:Court Royal.djvu/377

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entangled with a little pawn. Put me down for a score of dances, Joe. I had rather dance with you than with any other girl, and talk of something different from the weather and the primroses.’

But this might not be. Joanna had no lack of partners. The rumour spread that she was a Cornish heiress—taken up by the Kingsbridge family. There was no question as to her beauty, or to her ease of manner and movement. Ease of manner was given by complete self-assurance. Ease of movement by the fact that she had lived all her life in slippers.

‘Cheek,’ said an officer, ‘surely that is the girl I saw in the stage-box the night of that frightful accident. You went up and talked to her. We asked you then who she was.’

‘Yes, and I told you.’

‘You told us she was an heiress, and were disinclined to introduce us. It is mean of a man like you, with such prospects, to keep the heiresses to yourself.’

‘You are too dangerous a rival,’ answered Charles, laughing. ‘But it is not true; I leave the field clear about Miss Rigsby.’

‘What an uncommonly good-looking girl that is,’ said one mother, against the wall, to another standard medlar. ‘Not quite happy about her extraction, I understand.’

‘Rather odd in speech, I hear,’ answered the latter. ‘But the Kingsbridge people have taken her up on account of her money, and there is a rumour of the Marquess of Saltcombe becoming engaged to her, now he is off with Miss Rigsby. They could not come because they are in mourning, so they asked Mrs. Yellowleaf to be responsible for her.’

‘Dear me! I had no idea Mrs. Yellowleaf was intimate with the Eveleighs. I hear queer reports about the Kingsbridge family—very shaky, I understand.’

‘Ah, bah! Every planet has its occultations, and comes out of the shadow as bright as before. You never have known what it is to be in financial eclipse, I suppose.’

Joanna was dancing with Charles Cheek.

‘You do not know how you are perplexing the old ladies,’ he said. ‘As for the men, they are infatuated. Take care, Joe, that you leave no joint in your armour open for an arrow to enter. Some of the markswomen will be spanning their bows at you before the night wears to day.’

‘What a pity you were not at the Christmas ball at Court Royal,’ said Joanna, without noticing his warning. ‘I mean,