MOLLY BAWN. 267
Meantime the band is playing its newest, sweetest
strains; the air is heavy with the scent of flowers. The
low ripple of conversation and merry laughter rises above
everything. The hours are flying all too swiftly.
' May I have the pleasure of this waltz with you ?' Sir
Penthony is saying, bending over Lady Stafford, as she sits
in one of the numberless small, dimly-lit apartments that
branch off the hall.
' Dear Sir Penthony, do you think I will test your good
nature so far ? You are kind to a fault, and I wUl not
repay you so poorly as to avail myself of your offer. Fancy
condemning you to waste a whole dance on your—wife !'
The first of the small hours has long since sounded, and
she is a little piqued that not untU now has he asked her to
dance. Nevertheless she addresses him with her most
' I, for my part, should not consider it a dance wasted,'
replies he stiffiy.
' Is he not self-denying ?' she says, turning languidly
towards Lowry, who as usual stands beside her.
' You cannot expect me to see it in that light,' replies he
' May I hope for this waltz ?' Sir Penthony asks again,
this time very coldly.
' Not this one—perhaps a little later on.'
' As you please, of course,' returns he, as, with a frown
and an inward determination never to ask her again, he
In the ball-room he meets Luttrell, evidently on the look¬
out for a missing partner.
'Have you seen Miss Massereene?' he asks instantly,
' I am engaged to her, and can see her nowhere.'
' Try one of those nests for flirtation,' replies Stafford
bitterly, turning abruptly away, and pointing towards the
room he has just quitted.
But Luttrell goes in a contrary direction. Through one
conservatory after another, through ball-room, supper-room,
tea-room, he searches without success. There is no Molly
to be seen anywhere.
' She has forgotten our engagement,' he thinks, and feels
a certain pang of disappointment that it should be so. A s
ho walks, rather dejectedly, into a last conservatory he is