Junior year is coming to a close, and a Deep Valley tradition is the Junior-Senior Banquet. You will recall that Betsy was disappointed not to be appointed to chair a committee for the banquet, but due to the generosity (and perhaps humility) of Hazel Smith, who chaired the Decorating Committee, the trio are fully involved with the planning (which necessitates many meetings and even a sleepover at the Ray house). The juniors labor to turn the school into a park, and those gifted domestically apparently cook the entire dinner. Betsy spends so much time planning that she forgets to worry whether Dave Hunt, silent as to his intentions per usual, will turn up to take her to the banquet. She even wears an old dress (unlike Betsy; also unlike Rosamond duJardin heroines who always have a new formal for every occasion). Everything is perfect on this special day and evening: Hazel appreciates Betsy’s work planning the banquet; Stan seems to apologize to Betsy for having usurped her spot in the Essay Contest (although it wasn’t his fault he got chosen instead); Joe has created literary menus (I always love these); Stan and Miss Bangeter make great speeches. Then it is time for dancing and the moment we’ve all been waiting for finally arrives (the moment that even those who don’t like BWAJ eagerly anticipate) when Joe approaches Betsy and says, “May I have a dance, Miss Ray?” Her dance card is full but Betsy is determined not to wreck this opportunity as she has let others slip away:
In her freshman year he had asked to walk home with her from a party and she had had to turn him down. After a long time he had asked to walk home with her from the library one evening. Again she had had to turn him down.
“This would be three times and out,” she thought. “I have to break this jinx.”
She smiled. “I’m going to give you a dance. Some of these people who took two can just give one up.”
Joe’s dance card now has every dance marked for Phyllis except the second to last for Betsy. Georgette Heyer would probably advise him that it is not seemly to dance with a young lady more than twice in an evening even if one is her escort, but we know that Phyllis is indifferent to the opinions of the polite world. She does not, however, like rivals. As the news that Joe asked Betsy for a dance spreads through the hall, Phyllis finds out and insists on being taken home.
Betsy is standing by the dance floor, partnerless, wondering if she should go hide in the cloak room when Joe reappears and sweeps her onto the floor, and as they dance Betsy wonders, understandably, what this means in terms of their future relationship. Betsy knows that Joe isn’t the type to dump Phyllis but because Phyllis is a senior, she will graduate and disappear – leaving lots of possibilities for Betsy and Joe’s senior year. “He whirled her as she had never been whirled before,” and the reader knows it is the long awaited beginning of Betsy and Joe’s romance and rejoices.
The other good news from the banquet is that Tony attends, dances with all the girls from the Crowd, and promises to come to Sunday Night Lunch.
(image above copyright to Betsy Was a Junior, HarperCollins)