The American Senator HTML version

24. The Ball
The people came of course, but not in such numbers as had been expected.
Many of those in Rufford had heard of the accident, and having been made
acquainted with Nokes's report, stayed away. Everybody was told that supper
would be on the table at twelve, and that it was generally understood that the
house was to be cleared by two. Nokes seemed to think that the sufferer would
live at least till the morrow, and it was ascertained to a certainty that the music
could not affect him. It was agreed among the party in the house that the ladies
staying there should stand up for the first dance or two, as otherwise the
strangers would be discouraged and the whole thing would be a failure. This
request was made by Lady Penwether because Miss Penge had said that she
thought it impossible for her to dance. Poor Miss Penge, who was generally
regarded as a brilliant young woman, had been a good deal eclipsed by Arabella
and had seen the necessity of striking out some line for herself. Then Arabella
had whispered a few words to Lord Rufford, and the lord had whispered a few
words to his sister, and Lady Penwether had explained what was to be done to
the ladies around. Lady Augustus nodded her head and said that it was all right.
The other ladies of course agreed, and partners were selected within the house
party. Lord Rufford stood up with Arabella and John Morton with Lady
Penwether. Mr. Gotobed selected Miss Penge, and Hampton and Battersby the
two Miss Godolphins. They all took their places with a lugubrious but business-
like air, as aware that they were sacrificing themselves in the performance of a
sad duty. But Morton was not allowed to dance in the same quadrille with the
lady of his affections. Lady Penwether explained to him that she and her brother
had better divide themselves,--for the good of the company generally,--and
therefore he and Arabella were also divided.
A rumour had reached Lady Penwether of the truth in regard to their guests from
Bragton. Mr. Gotobed had whispered to her that he had understood that they
certainly were engaged; and, even before that, the names of the two lovers had
been wafted to her ears from the other side of the Atlantic. Both John Morton and
Lady Augustus were "somebodies," and Lady Penwether generally knew what
there was to be known of anybody who was anybody. But it was quite clear to
her,--more so even than to poor John Morton, that the lady was conducting
herself now as though she were fettered by no bonds, and it seemed to Lady
Penwether also that the lady was very anxious to contract other bonds. She
knew her brother well. He was always in love with somebody; but as he had
hitherto failed of success where marriage was desirable, so had he avoided
disaster when it was not. He was one of those men who are generally supposed
to be averse to matrimony. Lady Penwether and some other relatives were
anxious that he should take a wife;--but his sister was by no means anxious that
he should take such a one as Arabella Trefoil. Therefore she thought that she
might judiciously ask Mr. Morton a few questions. "I believe you knew the Trefoils