“What time is it, Mr. Westover? I see my aunt beginning to nod on her perch.”
Westover looked at his watch. “It’s ten minutes past two.”
“How early!” sighed the girl. “I’m tired of it, aren’t you?”
“Very,” said Westover. “I was tired an hour ago.”
Bessie sank back in her chair with an air of nervous collapse, and did not say anything. Westover saw her watching the young couples who passed in and out of the room where the dancing was, or found corners on sofas, or window-seats, or sheltered spaces beside the doors and the chimney-piece, the girls panting and the men leaning forward to fan them. She looked very tired of it; and when a young fellow came up and asked her to dance, she told him that she was provisionally engaged. “Come back and get me, if you can’t do better,” she said, and he answered there was no use trying to do better, and said he would wait till the other man turned up, or didn’t, if she would let him. He sat down beside her, and some young talk began between them.
In the midst of it Jeff appeared. He looked at Westover first, and then approached with an embarrassed face.
Bessie got vividly to her feet. “No apologies, Mr. Durgin, please! But in just another moment you’d have last your dance.”
Westover saw what he believed a change pass in Jeff’s look from embarrassment to surprise and then to flattered intelligence. He beamed all over; and he went away with Bessie toward the ballroom, and left Westover to a wholly unsupported belief that she had not been engaged to dance with Jeff. He wondered what her reckless meaning could be, but he had always thought her a young lady singularly fitted by nature and art to take care of herself, and when he reasoned upon what was in his mind he had to own that there was no harm in Jeff’s dancing with her.
He took leave of Miss Lynde, and was going to get his coat and hat for his walk home when he was mysteriously stopped in a corner of the stairs by one of the caterer’s men whom he knew. It is so unnatural to be addressed by a servant at all unless he asks you if you will have something to eat or drink, that Westover was in a manner prepared to have him say something startling. “It’s about young Mr. Lynde, sor. We’ve got um in one of the rooms up-stairs, but he ain’t fit to go home alone, and I’ve been lookin’ for somebody that knows the family to help get um into a car’ge. He won’t go for anny of us, sor.”
“Where is he?” asked Westover, in anguish at being unable to refuse the appeal, but loathing the office put upon him.
“I’ll show you, sor,” said the caterer’s man, and he sprang up the stairs before Westover, with glad alacrity.
In a little room at the side of that where the men’s hats and coats were checked, Alan Lynde sat drooping forward in an arm-chair, with his head fallen on his breast. He roused himself at the flash of the burner which the man turned up. “What’s all this?” he demanded, haughtily. “Where’s the carriage? What’s the matter?”