Half surrounded by a little group stood Ruth Nelson, red-lipped, bright-eyed, eager, her slender white-clad figure on tiptoe with buoyant expectancy. The crimson rose caught in her hair kept impatient time to the tap of her restless high-heeled slipper, and she swayed and sang with the music in a way to set the sea-waves dancing.
It was small matter to Sandy that the lace on her dress had belonged to her great-grandmother, or that the pearls about her round white throat had been worn by an ancestor who was lady in waiting to a queen of France. He only knew she meant everything beautiful in the world to him,—music and springtime and dawn,—and that when she smiled it was sunlight in his heart.
“I don’t think you can g-get a dance there,” said Annette, following his gaze. “She is always engaged ahead. But I’ll find out, if you w-want me to.”
“Would you, now?” cried Sandy, fervently pressing her hand. Then he stopped short. “Annette,” he said wistfully, “do you think she’ll be caring to dance with a boy like me?”
“Of course she will, if you k-keep off her toes and don’t forget to count the time. Hurry and g-get off your things; I want you to try it before the crowd comes. There are only a few couples for you to bump into now, and there will be a hundred after a while.”
O the fine rapture of that first moment when Sandy found he could dance! Annette knocked away his remaining doubts and fears and boldly launched him into the merry whirl. The first rush was breathless, carrying all before it; but after a moment’s awful uncertainty he settled into the step and glided away over the shining floor, counting his knots to be sure, but sailing triumphantly forward behind the flutter of Annette’s pink ribbons.
He was introduced right and left, and he asked every girl he met to dance. It made little difference who she happened to be, for in imagination she was always the same. Annette had secured for him the last dance with Ruth, and he intended to practise every moment until that magic hour should arrive.
But youth reckons not with circumstance. Just when all sails were set and he was nearing perfection, he met with a disaster which promptly relegated him to the dry-dock. His partner did not dance!
When he looked at her, he found that she was tall and thin and vivacious, and he felt that she must have been going to hops for a very long time.
“I hate dancing, don’t you?” she said. “Let’s go over there, out of the crowd, and have a nice long talk.”
Sandy glanced at the place indicated. It seemed a long way from base.
“Wouldn’t you like to stand here and watch them?” he floundered helplessly.
“Oh, dear, no; it’s too crowded. Besides,” she added playfully, “I have heard so much about you and your awfully romantic life. I just want to know all about it.”
As a trout, one moment in mid-stream swimming and frolicking with the best, finds himself suddenly snatched out upon the bank, gasping and helpless, so Sandy found himself high and dry against the wall, with the insistent voice of his captor droning in his ears.