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Once a Week By A. A. Milne Characters: 2106

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Beltravers Castle was a blaze of lights. At the head of the old oak staircase (a magnificent example of the Selfridge period) the Lady Beltravers stood receiving her guests. Magnificently gowned in one of Sweeting's latest creations, and wearing round her neck the famous Beltravers seed-pearls, she looked the picture of stately magnificence. As each guest was announced by a bevy of footmen, she extended her perfectly gloved hand and spoke a few words of kindly welcome.

"Good evening, Duchess; so good of you to look in. Ah, Earl, charmed to meet you; you'll find some sandwiches in the billiard-room. Beltravers, show the Earl some sandwiches. How-do-you-do, Professor? Delighted you could come. Won't you take off your goloshes?"

All the county was there.

Lord Hobble was there wearing a magnificent stud; Erasmus Belt, the famous author, whose novel, Bitten: A Romance, went into two editions; Sir Septimus Root, the inventor of the fire-proof spat; Captain the Honourable Alfred Nibbs, the popular breeder of blood-tortoises-the whole w

orld and his wife were present. And towering above them all stood Lord Beltravers, of Beltravers Castle, Beltravers.

Lord Beltravers stood aloof in a corner of the great ball-room. Above his head was the proud coat-of-arms of the Beltraverses-a headless sardine on a field of tomato. As each new arrival entered Lord Beltravers scanned his or her countenance eagerly, and then turned away with a snarl of disappointment. Would his little country maid never come?

She came at last. Attired in a frock which had obviously been created in Little Popley, she looked the picture of girlish innocence as she stood for a moment hesitating in the doorway. Then her eyes brightened as Lord Beltravers came towards her with long swinging strides.

"You're here!" he exclaimed. "How good of you to come. I have thought about you ever since this morning. There is a valse beginning. Will you valse it with me?"

"Thank you," said Gwendolen shyly.

Lord Beltravers, who valsed divinely, put his arm round her waist and led her into the circle of dancers.

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