Baskergrand The Nautilus

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The Ball

The days leading up to the ball seemed to roll into one, and before they knew it, the Baskergrands were entertaining guests at the ball on the Saturday evening at Comerton Hall. The main hall, which was located next door to the dining room, was full to the brim with finely dressed guests who had been invited to attend. Also in attendance was Valerie Horace and her family, and Garth Mason along with his parents.

''Garth!'' Percival called out to his friend amongst the throng of people. Garth had just entered the hall, and was being greeted by Victoria and Alfred Baskergrand. Percival was wearing a black tailcoat with a golden-embroidered white waistcoat and burgundy cravat, teamed with white trousers and black shoes. Garth was wearing something similar, albeit with a cream waistcoat and a plum coloured cravat.

''Hello, old chap!'' Garth greeted his friend with an embrace.

''It's finally here. The ball for the Bartletts,'' Percival commented.

''Yes, and what a jolly affair this is,'' Garth remarked. He looked at his friend, smiling away at the crowd.

''Percival, have you thought about it then?'' Garth asked his friend. Percival turned his attention to him.

''About what?'' Percival seemed to have forgotten what Garth was talking about. Garth took him aside.

''About coming to America with me,'' Garth responded. Percival's face changed when he remembered.

''Oh, well...about that...I think I may pass on it, old chap. I don't think I want to leave England just yet. Sorry,'' Percival answered. Garth looked slightly upset, but smiled at him.

''It's all right, you've made your decision. But...if you change your mind, let me know,'' Garth replied.

''Thank you, Garth,'' Percival said as he patted his friends shoulder.

''Hamish! Margaret!'' Victoria Baskergrand gushed when she saw a man and a woman enter. They were both short and stout people, and the man had dark hair, whilst the woman had blonde hair, tightly tucked into her blue bonnet. She was wearing a matching blue dress with a peach shawl, and the man was wearing an outfit similar to Garth and Percival, with the difference of a blue cravat and beige waistcoat and black trousers.

''Oh, the Bartletts have arrived,'' Percival mentioned, as the pair Victoria greeted were followed by their children, Rosemary and Hannah Bartlett. Percival hummed in agreement. Garth looked around the hall, and saw many more girls than usual.

''Percy, is it just me, or does there happen to be more girls at this ball than last time?'' Garth asked his friend. Percival looked to his friend, then browsed around at the hall.

''You're right; you can thank my mother for that. She wants me married off to one of these damsels,'' Percival responded. Garth smiled, but noticed that Valerie was the only one not looking happy.

''Now, everyone! Let us have a dance!'' Victoria shouted over the hubbub of the talkative crowd. Many in the crowd began to disperse, and mainly the young stayed in the middle of the floor, whilst the older generation stood to the side. Many of the girls were giggling and smiling at Percival and Garth, vying for their attention. Garth spotted Valerie looking down once again, and decided to go over to her to see what was wrong.

''Valerie? Are you feeling well?'' Garth asked her with concern. Valerie was wearing a magenta dress with a cream shawl, with her bright red hair tied neatly in an up-do.

''...Yes, I'm-I'm all right,'' she lied. Garth knew she actually wasn't, and took her aside gently to find out the cause for her miserableness.

''You look like you ate a poisoned apple. I know there is something wrong, Valerie,'' Garth pursued. Valerie sighed then looked down.

''It's...Percival...I just wanted him to...'' Valerie began, but stopped herself. Garth looked at her slightly puzzled, then realized what she meant.

''You're in love with him,'' Garth declared. Valerie snapped up her head, ashamed to hear that Garth knew.

''So...it's out then. You must think me a fool,'' Valerie said sadly.

''You're not the fool, Valerie, Percival is. He's too blind to see it. I've never seen him be so happy around any other girl than you,'' Garth comforted her. Valerie gave a small smile, but it dropped the moment she saw Percival's joyous countenance when speaking with some of the other girls. Garth sighed, seeing that Valerie needed cheering up.

''I'm going to tell him to dance with you,'' Garth said. Before Valerie could say anything, Garth had strode over to Percival, who was amongst the gaggle of girls.

''Percival, can I speak with you a moment?'' Garth asked him. Percival turned to Garth, whose expression was telling of something serious.

''All right,'' Percival acquiesced. They smiled at the girls as they went aside and talked.

''What is it, old chap? Want to dance with one of them?'' Percival joked.

''Maybe later. I want you to do me a favour. Actually, more of a favour for yourself,'' Garth replied straightforwardly to Percival. Percival looked somewhat baffled.

''What favour?'' he asked.

''Dance with Valerie. She needs a partner,'' Garth responded. Percival gave a strange look in return.

''Oh, I'm afraid I can't. Lord Cranston's daughter Amelia has already asked me, and I have already agreed. I can dance with Valerie afterwards,'' Percival answered. Garth sighed, then looked back at Valerie. Just then, the sound of violins and violas began to play a song to prompt everyone that the dance was to begin.

''Places, everyone! Places!'' Victoria commanded. The men and women got into their respective places, facing one another in a long line across the hall. Percival bowed to Amelia, and a few places down the line, Garth bowed to Valerie. The dance then started, with everyone smiling happily. Percival smiled heartily, which seemed to dishearten Valerie.

''Are you sure he's just blind? He seems to be deaf and dumb, too,'' Valerie said bitterly. Garth held her closer to him and spoke into her ear.

''Yes, I'm afraid he is. But that is Percival, for you. He needs a bit of prompting,'' Garth said, watching Percival as well.

''His mind always seems to be somewhere else lately,'' Valerie remarked. Garth looked at her.

''I noticed that too. But I surmised it was because he could not stop thinking of you,'' Garth explained.

''I wish. He's probably never given me second thought,'' Valerie said, disappointedly. Garth began to get upset at Percival.

''I'm going to give him a good telling off,'' Garth mumbled under his breath. As the song ended, Amelia surprised Percival with a kiss on his cheek. Valerie became upset, leaving the hall as everyone applauded. Garth looked after her, then stared at Percival. He then strode over to his friend, grabbed him by the arm, and frogmarched him into a quiet area outside the hall.

''Garth! What on earth are you doing! What is the meaning of this?'' Percival uttered in shock.

''You...you are an idiot! A complete and utter idiot!'' Garth blasted him. Percival was stunned.

''I don't understand; what have I done?'' Percival questioned him.

''You should have danced with Valerie, and now look what you have done!'' Garth responded in spite. Percival was flabbergasted.

''Valerie? What on earth did I do to her?'' Percival pressed. Garth put his hands on his hips and shook his head.

''You'll realise when you see her. Go and get her and ask her yourself,'' Garth answered. Percival looked baffled, but saw that Garth was serious.

'I do not know what I have done to cause Garth and Valerie to be upset, but I must go see her if I am to get to the bottom of this,' Percival thought before he left to seek Valerie. He entered the main hall again, and scanned the crowd, but could not see her. He then went to the left side of the hall, which led to the study. When he passed a pair of guests, he overheard a conversation that piqued his interest. He stopped to listen to what the two men were discussing.

''The Great Exhibition in London? Well, I have already been once. There are so many displays of advances in science there, and there are many more to come,'' one man said.

''Yes. I believe it is ending soon, so I want to see it before it finishes in October,'' the other man responded. As Percival was listening, a thought came into his head.

'I should tell Beller about this. Maybe...we should take the suit to the Great Exhibition,' he reasoned, a smile developing across his face.


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