There were six of them, very modestly dressed, only their arms and feet being bare. Their black hair was parted in the middle, and combed back behind the ears, after the fashion of many years ago in the United States. They all wore ornaments in their ears, and around their ankles. The material of their dresses was various, some of it quite rich, with pearls and gold in places. They looked quite serious, as though they were about to engage in a religious ceremony, though it had no such connection. Some of them were decidedly pretty, though their style of beauty was not entirely to the taste of the Americans. They had black eyes, and they looked the visitors full in the face, and with entire self-possession.
“Now what are these girls, Sir Modava?” asked Mrs. Belgrave.
“They are professional dancers, and that is their sole occupation,” replied he. “They are engaged by rich people when they give parties, and for weddings and other festive occasions.”
“Is that man the only musician?”
“He is the only one for this entertainment, and he plays the tom-tom with his fingers. I am afraid you do not appreciate our native music, and we did not engage any more of it. They are about to begin.”
The musician beat the tom-tom, and the girls rose from the floor, shook out their dresses as any lady would, and then it appeared that the ornaments on their ankles were bells, which rattled as though it were sleighing-time as they moved about. They formed in a semicircle before the audience; one of them stepped forward, and turned herself around very slowly and gracefully, with a quivering of the body, like the gypsy girls of Spain, which caused her bells to jingle.
With eyes half-closed, and with a languishing expression on her dusky face, she made a variety of gestures, posturing frequently as she continued to turn. When this one seemed to have exhausted her material, another advanced to the front, and proceeded to exhibit her variety of gestures and postures, which were but slightly different from those of the first one, though she went through the movements of a snake-charmer. In like manner all the performers went through their several parts, imitating various musicians on different native instruments.
Two of them went through a very lively performance, leaping and whirling very rapidly. The exhibition concluded with a round dance, which was thought to be very pretty, perhaps because it was exceedingly lively. Mrs. Belgrave and Mrs. Blossom had never been to a theatre in their lives, never saw a ballet, and were not capable of appreciating the posturing, though the animated dance pleased them. The Nautch girls retired, and the “Nautch,” as such an occasion is called, was ended.
“Perhaps you have seen snakes enough for one day,” said Lord Tremlyn; “but I thought you ought to see the performance of the snake-charmers. We will have it here instead of in the open street; and it is quite different from the show you witnessed this forenoon.”