174 MOLLY BAWN.
If I am not worth the wooing,
I surely am not worth the winning.
The minutes, selfishly thoughtless of all but themselves, fly
rapidly. Cecil makes her way to the drawing-room, where
she is followed presently by Molly, then by Luttrell; but
as these two latter refuse to converse with each other con¬
versation is rather one-sided.
Mr. Amherst, contrary to his usual custom, appears very
early on the field, evidently desirous of enjoying the fray to
its utmost. He looks quite jubilant and fresh for him, and
his nose is in a degree sharper than its wont. He opens an
animated discourse with Cecil; but Lady Stafford, although
distrait and with her mind on the stretch, listening for every
sound outside, replies brilliantly, and, womanlike, conceals
her anxiety with her tongue.
At length the dreaded moment comes. There is a sound
of footfalls—nearer-^nearer still—then, 'clearer, deadlier
than before,' and the door opens, to discover Sir Penthony
upon the threshold.
Lady Stafford is sitting within the embrasure of the
' Fortune favours me,' she says hurriedly to Molly,
alluding to the other guests' non-appearance.
' Your wife is sta}dng with me,' Mr. Amherst begins
complacently; and, pointing to Cecil, 'Allow me to introduce
' Lady Stafford,' CecU interrupts, coming forward, while
a good deal of rich crimson mantles in her cheeks. She is
looking lovely from excitement; and her pretty, rounded,
graceful figure is shown off to the best advantage by the
heavy fall of the red draperies behind her.
Sir Penthony gazes, spell-bound, at the gracious creature
before him ; the colour recedes from his lips and brow; hia
eyes grow darker. Luttrell with difficulty suppresses a smile,
Mr, Amherst is almost satisfied,
' You are welcome,' Cecil says with perfect self-posses¬
sion, putting out her hand and absolutely taking his; foi",
BO stunned is he by her words, he even forgets to offer it.