Of course the boys came early, and stood about in corners, looking as if they had more arms and legs than they knew what to do with. Tom did his best to be a good host; but ceremony oppressed his spirits, and he was forced to struggle manfully with the wild desire to propose a game of leap-frog, for the long drawing-rooms, cleared for dancing, tempted him sorely.

Polly sat where she was told, and suffered bashful agonies as Fan introduced very fine young ladies and very stiff young gentlemen, who all said about the same civil things, and then appeared to forget all about her. When the first dance was called, Fanny cornered Tom, who had been dodging her, for he knew what she wanted, and said, in an earnest whisper,—

“Now, Tom, you must dance this with Polly. You are the young gentleman of the house, and it’s only proper that you should ask your company first.”

“Polly don’t care for manners. I hate dancing; don’t know how. Let go my jacket, and don’t bother, or I’ll cut away altogether,” growled Tom, daunted by the awful prospect of opening the ball with Polly.

“I’ll never forgive you if you do. Come, be clever, and help me, there’s a dear. You know we both were dreadfully rude to Polly, and agreed that we’d be as kind and civil to her as ever we could. I shall keep my word, and see that she isn’t slighted at my party, for I want her to love me, and go home feeling all right.”

This artful speech made an impression on the rebellious Thomas, who glanced at Polly’s happy face, remembered his promise, and, with a groan, resolved to do his duty.

“Well, I’ll take her; but I shall come to grief, for I don’t know anything about your old dances.”

“Yes, you do. I’ve taught you the steps a dozen times. I’m going to begin with a redowa, because the girls like it, and it’s better fun than square dances. Now, put on your gloves, and go and ask Polly like a gentleman.”

“Oh, thunder!” muttered Tom. And having split the detested gloves in dragging them on, he nerved himself for the effort, walked up to Polly, made a stiff bow, stuck out his elbow, and said, solemnly, “May I have the pleasure, Miss Milton?”

He did it as much like the big fellows as he could, and expected that Polly would be impressed. But she wasn’t a bit; for after a surprised look she laughed in his face, and took him by the hand, saying, heartily,—

“Of course you may; but don’t be a goose, Tommy.”

“Well, Fan told me to be elegant, so I tried to,” whispered Tom, adding, as he clutched his partner with a somewhat desperate air, “Hold on tight, and we’ll get through somehow.”

The music struck up, and away they went; Tom hopping one way and Polly the other, in a most ungraceful manner.

“Keep time to the music,” gasped Polly.

“Can’t; never could,” returned Tom.

“Keep step with me, then, and don’t tread on my toes,” pleaded Polly.

“Never mind; keep bobbing, and we’ll come right by and by,” muttered Tom, giving his unfortunate partner a sudden whisk, which nearly landed both on the floor.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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