John Caldigate eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 617 pages of information about John Caldigate.

Chapter VI

Mrs. Smith

She had changed the conversation so suddenly, rushing off from that great question as to the condition of women generally to the very unimportant matter of the dancing powers of the ladies who were manoeuvring before them, that Caldigate hardly knew how to travel with her so quickly.  ‘They all dance well enough for ship dancing,’ he replied; ‘but as to what you were saying about women——­’

’No, Mr. Caldigate; they don’t dance well enough for ship dancing.  Dancing, wherever it be done, should be graceful.  A woman may at any rate move her feet in accordance with time, and she need not skip, nor prance, nor jump, even on board ship.  Look at that stout lady.’

‘Mrs. Callander?’

Everybody by this time knew everybody’s name.

‘If she is Mrs. Callander?’

Mrs. Smith, no doubt, knew very well that it was Mrs. Callander.

’Does not your ear catch separately the thud of her footfall every time she comes to the ground?’

‘She is fat, fair, and forty.’

’Fat enough;—­and what she lacks in fairness may be added on to the forty; but if she were less ambitious and had a glimmer of taste, she might do better than that.  You see that girl with the green scarf round her?  She is young and good-looking.  Why should she spring about like a bear on a hot iron?’

‘You should go and teach them.’

’It is just what I should like; only they would not be taught; and I should be stern, and tell them the truth.’

‘Why don’t you go and dance with them yourself?’

‘I!’

‘Why not?  There is one second-class lady there?’ This was true.  For though none of the men would have been admitted from the inferior rank to join the superior, the rule of demarcation had so far been broken that a pretty girl who was known to some of the first-class passengers had been invited to come over the line and join the amusements of the evening.  ‘She dances about as well as any of them.’

’If you were among them would you dare to come out and ask me to join them?  That is a question which you won’t even dare to answer.’

‘It is a little personal.’

’"No,” you ought to say.  “I could not do that because your clothes are so poor, and because of your ragged old hat, and I am not quite sure that your shoes are fit to be seen.”  Is not that what you would say, if you said what you thought?’

‘Perhaps it is.’

’And if you said all that you thought, perhaps you would remind me that a woman of whom nobody knows anything is always held to be disreputable.  That girl, no doubt, has her decent belongings.  I have nobody.’

‘You have your friends on board.’

’No, I have not.  I have not a single friend on board.  Those Cromptons were very unwillingly persuaded to take a sort of interest in me, though they really know nothing about me.  And I have already lost any good which might come from their protection.  She told me yesterday, that I ought not to walk about with Mr. Shand.’

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John Caldigate from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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