That night, after dinner, the dining-room was cleared for dancing, so that the guests might feel freedom and gaiety in the air. And, indeed, presently, a couple began sawing up and down over the polished boards, in the apologetic manner peculiar to hotel guests. Then three pairs of Italians suddenly launched themselves into space—twirling and twirling, and glaring into each other’s eyes; and some Americans, stimulated by their precept, began airily backing and filling. Two of the ‘English Grundys’ with carefully amused faces next moved out. To Lennan it seemed that they all danced very well, better than he could. Did he dare ask her? Then he saw the young violinist go up, saw her rise and take his arm and vanish into the dancing-room; and leaning his forehead against a window-pane, with a sick, beaten feeling, he stayed, looking out into the moonlight, seeing nothing. He heard his name spoken; his tutor was standing beside him.
“You and I, Lennan, must console each other. Dancing’s for the young, eh?”
Fortunately it was the boy’s instinct and his training not to show his feelings; to be pleasant, though suffering.
“Yes, sir. Jolly moonlight, isn’t it, out there?”
“Ah! very jolly; yes. When I was your age I twirled the light fantastic with the best. But gradually, Lennan, one came to see it could not be done without a partner—there was the rub! Tell me— do you regard women as responsible beings? I should like to have your opinion on that.”
It was, of course, ironical—yet there was something in those words—something!
“I think it’s you, sir, who ought to give me yours.”
“My dear Lennan—my experience is a mere nothing!”
That was meant for unkindness to her! He would not answer. If only Stormer would go away! The music had stopped. They would be sitting out somewhere, talking! He made an effort, and said:
“I was up the hill at the back this morning, where the cross is. There were some jolly goats.”
And suddenly he saw her coming. She was alone—flushed, smiling; it struck him that her frock was the same colour as the moonlight.
“Harold, will you dance?”
He would say ‘Yes,’ and she would be gone again! But his tutor only made her a little bow, and said with that smile of his:
“Lennan and I have agreed that dancing is for the young.”
“Sometimes the old must sacrifice themselves. Mark, will you dance?”
Behind him he heard his tutor murmur:
“Ah! Lennan—you betray me!”
That little silent journey with her to the dancing-room was the happiest moment perhaps that he had ever known. And he need not have been so much afraid about his dancing. Truly, it was not polished, but it could not spoil hers, so light, firm, buoyant! It was wonderful to dance with her. Only when the music stopped and they sat down did he know how his head was going round. He felt strange, very strange indeed. He heard her say: