“You forget that she had no knowledge of his presence in New York, and Oliver has changed greatly since she saw him full three years ago.”
“And now to grandma,” said Kitty, releasing the latch of the door, which she had held carefully in her hand since entering the room, as a precaution against intruders; “and fare you well, Betty, till we meet at the ball to-night.”
All through that New Year day Betty’s heart throbbed with excitement, as a steady stream of visitors passed in and out of the mansion, where Grandma Effingham and Clarissa bade welcome to old friends and young ones, to stately gentlemen in small clothes and powdered queues, with a fine selection of British officers, beginning with Sir Henry Clinton, who arrived in great state and descended from his sleigh, with its coal-black horses, accompanied by his aides, for the English commander liked to conciliate the Tories of New York, and, as he was then making secret preparations to accompany an expedition to South Carolina, thought best to appear in public even more than usual.
“Mistress Betty,” said Geoffrey Yorke, under cover of sipping a glass of port wine which she had offered him, “I drink to your very good health;” then softly, “I have not seen you for a week; have you been quite well since the Christmas party?”
“Is it so long?”—willfully; “Clarissa said you called one day.”
“Surely—to ask for you, and you never came inside the room.”
“Because I was busy, sir,” replied Betty. Then relenting as a swift remembrance crossed her mind, “I was skating at the Collect, where I went with Peter late in the day.”
“Will you dance with me to-night at the ball—promise me all the dances you can possibly spare?” and Geoffrey’s voice took its most tender tone as he fixed his eyes on Betty’s charming face.
“All my dances? Nay, two, possibly three, are as many as Clarissa would deem consistent with good manners,” returned the maid, unable to forego the pleasure of teasing him; “indeed, I am bewildered even now remembering sundry engagements already made.”
“The first dance, Betty,” said Yorke pleadingly, as he saw the general taking leave, and prepared to accompany him. “Surely you will not deny me that grace?”
But Betty only gave him the tips of her fingers in reply as she swept a graceful courtesy. Was it the slight pressure of his hand which accompanied the farewell that made Geoffrey spring gayly into the sleigh and drive off with a half-boyish, half-triumphant smile?
THE DE LANCEY BALL