‘Very good; I see. You pity me—that’s all.’ And Edward Rosier looked all round, inconsequently, with his single glass. It was a revelation to him that people shouldn’t be more pleased; but he was at least too proud to show that the deficiency struck him as general.

Isabel for a moment said nothing. His manner and appearance had not the dignity of the deepest tragedy; his little glass, among other things, was against that. But she suddenly felt touched; her own unhappiness, after all, had something in common with his, and it came over her, more than before, that here, in recognizable, if not in romantic form, was the most affecting thing in the world—young love struggling with adversity. ‘Would you really be very kind to her?’ she finally asked in a low tone.

He dropped his eyes devoutly and raised the little flower that he held in his fingers to his lips. Then he looked at her. ‘You pity me; but don’t you pity her a little?’

‘I don’t know; I’m not sure. She’ll always enjoy life.’

‘It will depend on what you call life!’ Mr Rosier effectively said. ‘She won’t enjoy being tortured.’

‘There’ll be nothing of that.’

‘I’m glad to hear it. She knows what she’s about. You’ll see.’

‘I think she does, and she’ll never disobey her father. But she’s coming back to me,’ Isabel added, ‘and I must beg you to go away.’

Rosier lingered a moment till Pansy came in sight on the arm of her cavalier; he stood just long enough to look her in the face. Then he walked away, holding up his head; and the manner in which he achieved this sacrifice to expediency convinced Isabel he was very much in love.

Pansy, who seldom got disarranged in dancing, looking perfectly fresh and cool after this exercise, waited a moment and then took back her bouquet. Isabel watched her and saw she was counting the flowers; whereupon she said to herself that decidedly there were deeper forces at play than she had recognized. Pansy had seen Rosier turn away, but she said nothing to Isabel about him; she talked only of her partner, after he had made his bow and retired; of the music, the floor, the rare misfortune of having already torn her dress. Isabel was sure, however, she had discovered her lover to have abstracted a flower; though this knowledge was not needed to account for the dutiful grace with which she responded to the appeal of her next partner. That perfect amenity under acute constraint was part of a larger system. She was again led forth by a flushed young man, this time carrying her bouquet; and she had not been absent many minutes when Isabel saw Lord Warburton advancing through the crowd. He presently drew near and bade her good-evening; she had not seen him since the day before. He looked about him, and then ‘Where’s the little maid?’ he asked. It was in this manner that he had formed the harmless habit of alluding to Miss Osmond.

‘She’s dancing,’ said Isabel. ‘You’ll see her somewhere.’

He looked among the dancers and at last caught Pansy’s eye. ‘She sees me, but she won’t notice me,’ he then remarked. ‘Are you not dancing?’

‘As you see, I’m a wallflower.’

‘Won’t you dance with me?’

‘Thank you; I’d rather you should dance with the little maid.’

‘One needn’t prevent the other—especially as she’s engaged.’

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