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Whirling gowns and masks flashed by, sparkling in the candlelight, a riot of sumptuous jewel-toned colour. Wide, flounced skirts rustled, echoed by the hard-soled click of dress shoes and the zip of folding fans being unfurled. Laughter and the murmur of polite conversation flittered like Springtime butterflies through the groups of bodies, poised and elegant with carefully sharpened tongues and guarded secrets.
James adjusted his mask, ever-present of his need to be anonymous at this most prestigious of balls. The Lady Whitington had made it clear he was to attend when he had called a fortnight ago and begged off for Parliamentary business.
“Nonsense!” She had exclaimed. “You will come, and you will have fun. You can’t mourn forever, James.”
He thought briefly on the irony that indeed even though he had arrived at the ball, he was hiding behind the domino strapped uncomfortably to his head. The sequins and beading itched ferociously, but he let it be. A small price to pay to make his appearance, then leave before the night was too late, and the gambling tables too full. He had just been fussed over by Lady Whitington, who was exuberantly happy he had chosen to make an appearance, and exclaimed that the ladies would be happy for some new variety in dance partner. she had fiddled with his lapel, and kissed him soundly on the cheek.
Dancing was the last thing he wanted to do.
Several ladies glided by, giving him glances of interest and curiosity, then whispering to themselves as they passed him. How was it that he was here, alone, forced into socialization during the Season by way of a masked soirée? he knew obligation and guilt had won out over stubborn pride, and Lady Whitington had been adamant. He sighed and wound his way to the refreshments, receiving an elegant crystal tumbler with a splash of whisky. He stood by the cart, and sipped.
The small quartet in the corner of the room began to play, the red-faced pianoforte player already sweating with the heat that many bodies in a small ballroom could give. He watched as they began what sounded like an ancient minuet and he sighed again, expecting the inevitable. He would have to show some fortitude and ask someone to dance, and deal with the patterned, stiff footsteps he now abhored.
Truthfully he used to love it, but that was before. Before everything.