As intended, when supper started at 6:00PM, Lord and Lady Lipton, along with their relatives and close friends, and their new friends from France, enjoyed a tasty and hearty family supper that included dishes that Clarissa herself was most fond of. Lord Lipton remembered the taste of the soup, it was a common one and one, indeed, that he was eating when Clarissa showed up at his house all those years before, hungry and frightened to be passed off to her relative, but the soup given to her and her servant was one of the things that helped her calm down and to realize the kindness of wealthy and powerful cousin. And now that she was entering into adulthood, Lord Lipton was pleased to see that she had not forgotten where she came from and that she still sought familiar and comfortable ways of demonstrating her ease with the world, sharing with friends and family something that meant a lot to her emotionally.
As Lord Lipton had hoped, the conversation was lively at the table where they sat and talked and ate, and as the young Lieutenant Villebois was in his regimentals, he looked especially dashing. Clarissa herself was in a gorgeous green dress that perfectly suited her brown hair and complexion, and that marked her as someone to pay attention with at the ball that she had so long waited for.
When dinner was done, the party moved from the table to the room that had been set up for the ballroom, where there were more tables of fruit and meat and vegetables and drinks for those who wanted to snack. The party themselves, having been filled with soup and a hearty plain dish of meat and starches and vegetables, were not in the least bit hungry, and at least had not stuffed themselves to such a level that made it impossible for them to dance.
As might be expected, though, most of the people who went to the dance were themselves fashionably late. Lord Lipton and his family were certainly powerful people, and were people who others sought to befriend and know, but no one had ever accused them of being fashionable people. Had they cared more about it, I suppose they would have been able to do something about it, but their interests laid elsewhere and so they let other people take charge when it came to setting the tone in fashion. That is not to say that they were deliberately or provocatively unfashionable. Certainly tonight all of the people at the dance were doing their best to set the right standard, since it was a fair guess that this is the sort of party that people would gossip about and no one wanted bad things said about them.
When the musicians struck up the first tune, Lord Lipton led his cousin out to the dance floor and then introduced her to the crowd, and then he stood aside to let the couples dance. Twice in the evening he danced with Clarissa, who also danced twice with Monseur Villebois, the first and second pairs of dances, to let everyone know that his eye was on her and that she certainly welcomed the attention but not enough dances to make people wonder where she would be shopping for her wedding clothes. Otherwise, though, it must be admitted that there were a fair amount of young men and young ladies and those who wanted to dance and were inclined to accept the offers of the noble people there had plenty of opportunity to dance.
When the dancing was done, the sleeping adults were roused awake by the more energetic young people and the various families went to their carriages to return home while there was still some darkness to begin their sleep. Politely, Lord Lipton had his carriage drive home the Villebois men, and managed to do so without bringing shame to them by talking with them long enough that the rest of the guests faded away and were not aware of their departure.
“Thank for your the invitation,” the Marquis said in French.
“You’re most welcome. It was a pleasure to have your son and you here,” Lord Lipton replied.
“It is likely we will be seeing more of each other.”
“I think that is likely to be the case.”
“Are you going to spend a long time in London?”
“Not at all, we are soon to return to Yorkshire, as there will be some work to do there.”
“My son has to go to Newcastle within the next two weeks, so I imagine that he will be in your neck of the woods before too long.”
“He is welcome to stop by when he comes, as my family is usually at home.”
“I am glad to hear that.”
The two fell into a thoughtful silence as the last of the guests left, and then the two Frenchmen left in Lord Lipton’s carriage while the household prepared to go to sleep themselves, albeit somewhat belatedly.
“The ball went really well,” Clarissa said to her cousin.
“Yes, it did.”
“Do you think that the young Frenchman likes me?”
“I think so.”
“How soon will we know?”
“I’m not sure, give it a few days, at least.”
“Are we going back to Yorkshire soon?”
“Yes, in fact, we will probably be leaving tomorrow, and possibly trying to rest some in the carriage as we go.”
“I’m going to be pretty tired tomorrow.”
“I am sure of that. We all will be.”
“Did you really come down just so that I could be introduced at St. James?”
“Yes, we did. We won’t be back again, I don’t think, until Parliament starts.”
And though there was more to say, they were too tired to say it, and both soon wandered to their rooms to catch a few fitful hours of sleep before it was time to travel back to their home.