- 23. The Dividing Tide – Episode 23
- 24. The Dividing Tide – Episode 24
- 25. The Dividing Tide – Episode 25
- 26. The Dividing Tide – Episode 26
- 27. The Dividing Tide – Episode 27
- 28. The Dividing Tide – Episode 28
- 29. The Dividing Tide – Episode 29
Jenna gazed at her bare shoulders above the neat low-cut bodice and full skirt. Her hair had been curled with hot irons, and the fair ringlets set off the pale blue of the gown.
“I can’t believe it’s me,” she whispered.
“Well, I can assure you it is.” Lamorna adjusted the mirror in her room so that Jenna could see her reflection better. “I told you that colour would suit you.”
Jenna twisted this way and that.
“I wonder what my Garren would say if he could see me?” she said at last, reaching up to gently pull at a golden curl.
“Now, then, Letty didn’t go to all that trouble with your hair just for you to pull it out of place,” her cousin admonished. “And he’d say you looked beautiful,” she added.
Then she checked her own appearance, adjusting a pink bow upon a green satin flounce.
“Here’s your dance card,” she continued. “We’d better look lively or Mama will be after us.”
The two girls made their way to the top of the wide staircase that led to the hall. A few guests had arrived already and were being greeted by Jago and Morwenna.
“Goodness! We’re supposed to be greeting the guests with Mama and Papa. Quickly now.”
Jenna’s heart raced as she descended the stairs. She found, however, that all she had to do was smile and curtsey. Jago and Morwenna did the talking.
Before she knew it, all the guests had been greeted and Lamorna was pulling her forwards into the blue drawing-room where the musicians were tuning up their instruments.
“Oh!” For a moment Jenna stood and stared.
She had helped to decorate the room with swathes of evergreen and bunches of holly with scarlet berries, and had helped to pin the elaborate red satin bows on the walls.
But that had been in daytime. Now, with the addition of the lit candles, the scene was transformed.
The chandeliers had been cleaned for the occasion, and they sparkled as the little flames flickered. It cast a twinkling magic on everything, softening shapes and creating shadowy patterns across the women’s beautiful gowns and the men’s sombre suits. Never in her life had she seen such a pretty sight.
Her reverie was interrupted by a group of young men asking to write their names upon her card. Lamorna took two glasses of champagne from a servant and pressed one into Jenna’s hand.
“There, try that.”
Jenna laughed as the bubbles prickled her tongue and nose.
“Delicious!” she cried.
She negotiated her way through several dances, managing the steps with just enough skill to enable her to enjoy them. She danced a quadrille with Jago and a country reel with Arthek, and had just sat down for a rest when a lilting tune struck up.
“It’s a waltz,” Lamorna whispered in her ear. “Mama’s forbidden me to dance it. She says it’s far too bold. But just you wait and see, it’s beautiful. Now, I’m going to bag us some more champagne.”
While she was gone, Jenna watched several couples taking to the floor. Then a young man appeared in front of her. He bent over her hand.
“My dance, I believe.”
“I’m sorry,” she stammered, “but you’ve made a mistake.”
She took out her dance card from her evening reticule and pointed.
“I don’t know how to dance the waltz,” she confessed with a blush, “so I kept those dances free.”
He raised his dark brows.
“I beg to differ, Miss Goss.”
“Oh!” She frowned in astonishment as she looked down at her card. The gentleman was right. There was a name beside the dance in progress.
His handsome face creased into a smile.
“Don’t worry. I’ll teach you.” He held out an elegantly gloved hand.