“You knew they were there!” I cry in a whisper of passionate resentment, snatching my hand from his arm; “you brought me here on purpose!”
Then, regardless of appearances, I turn quickly away, and walk back down the passage alone!
This is how the ball ends for me. As soon as I am out of sight, I quicken my walk into a run, and, flying up the stairs, take refuge in my bedroom. Nor do I emerge thence again. The ball itself goes on for hours. The drawing-room is directly beneath me. It seems to me as if the sound of the fiddling, of the pounding, scampering feet would never, never end.
I believe, at least I hear afterward, that Mr. Parker, whose spirits go on rising with the steady speed of quicksilver in fine weather, declines to allow his guests to depart, countermands their carriages, bribes their servants, and, in short, reaches the pitch of joyfully confident faith to which all things seem not only possible, but extremely desirable, and in whose eyes the mango-tree feat would appear but a childish trifle.
The room is made up for the night; windows closed, shutters bolted, curtains draped. With hasty impatience I undo them all. I throw high the sash, and lean out. It is not a warm night; there is a little frosty crispness in the air, but I am burning. I am talking quickly and articulately to myself all the time, under my breath; it seems to me to relieve a little the inarticulate thoughts. I will not wink at it any longer, indeed I will not; nobody could expect it of me. I will not be taken in by that transparent fallacy of old friends! Nobody but me is. They all see it; Algy, Musgrave, all of them. At the thought of the victory written in Musgrave’s eyes just now—at the recollection of the devilish irony of his wish, as we parted in Brindley Wood—
“I hope that your fidelity may be rewarded as it deserves—” I start up, with a sort of cry, as if I had been smartly stung, and begin to walk quickly up and down the room. I will not storm at Roger—no, I will not even raise my voice, if I can remember, and, after all, there is a great deal to be said on his side; he has been very forbearing to me always, and I—I have been trying to him; most petulant and shrewish; treating him to perpetual, tiresome tears, and peevish, veiled reproaches. I will only ask him quite meekly and humbly to let me go home again; to send me back to the changed and emptied school-room; to Algy’s bills and morosities; to the wearing pricks of father’s little pin-point tyrannies.
I have lit the candles, and am looking at myself in the cheval-glass. What has become of my beauty, pray? The powder is shaken from my hair; it no longer rises in a white and comely pile; the motion of dancing has loosened and tossed it; it has a look of dull, gray dishevelment. The rouge has almost disappeared; melted away, or sunk in; there never was a great deal of it, never the generous abundance that adorned Mr. Parker’s face. I cannot help laughing, even now, as I think of the round red smouch that so artlessly ornamented each of his cheeks.