Halfway through the assembly, Genevra had regained her happy insouciance. The lack of clarity to her evening seemed less important as her confidence grew. Several of the young ladies she knew were in attendance, and their nervousness eased her own. She had the satisfaction of being solicited to dance every set, and her mama nodded approvingly from her seat with the other mothers and chaperones. Finally she banded together with her friends and, after asking permission, they made their way to the withdrawing room opposite the ballroom. Their whispers were all about the young gentlemen they had met and the ensembles they had seen.
They entered the chamber on gales of laughter, and much primping and pinning took place in front of the half dozen looking glasses. They had all become good friends and mild rivals during their first season, and their conversation reflected their ease with each other. Genevra in her turn refreshed herself in a screened corner. As she splashed a little water on her hot cheeks, a sudden silence fell in the room. She rounded the japanned screen to find her companions had abandoned her. The chamber was quite empty.
A panicky anxiety clawed her stomach. She would have to make her way back to the ballroom alone. It sounded simple, but all of her unease about her abysmal vision was in an instant revived. Standing alone in the middle of the room, she revolved slowly. No more than an impression of gilding, nile green walls, and white plaster could she gain, even by squinting. And there were three doors. She had no notion by which she had entered the room; she had been chattering with her friends on her entry.
She shook out her ice-blue skirts and poked at the pearls twined in her dark curls. Well, she decided, I will not spend my evening at Almack's in the ladies' withdrawing room. She forced herself to calm, trying to retrace her steps within the room. They had crossed the chamber to the looking glasses after entering. She had helped Lucilla pin a flounce, and Phoebe rearrange her hair. She had turned this way and that--oh, it was hopeless.
Finally she chose a door at random. The door which stood alone in the farthest wall would serve her needs as well as any of them. Taking a deep breath, she stole across the room, realizing as she did so that she could hear no sound beyond any of the doors. There was no help to be had by a hint of music or laughter; the building was very sound of construction if all noise was muffled so thoroughly. She shook her head and, grasping the brass handle firmly, opened the paneled door.