Great was the general surprise of the dancing class when this large, tall, handsome English girl, of about eighteen, entered the room in a rose-colored silk dress, with very low neck and very short sleeves, white satin shoes, and white kid gloves; her long auburn ringlets and ivory shoulders glancing in the ten o’clock morning sunlight with a sort of incongruous splendor, and her whole demeanor that of the most innocent and modest tranquillity.
Mademoiselle Descuilles shut her book to with a snap, and sat bolt upright and immovable, with eyes and mouth wide open. Young Mr. Guillet blushed purple, and old Mr. Guillet scraped a few interjections on his fiddle, and then, putting it down, took a resonant pinch of snuff, by way of restoring his scattered senses.
No observation was made, however, and the lesson proceeded, young Mr. Guillet turning scarlet each time either of his divergent orbs of vision encountered his serenely unconscious, full-dressed pupil; which certainly, considering that he was a member of the Grand Opera corps de ballet, was a curious instance of the purely conventional ideas of decency which custom makes one accept.
Whatever want of assiduity I may have betrayed in my other studies, there was no lack of zeal for my dancing lessons. I had a perfect passion for dancing, which long survived my school-days, and I am persuaded that my natural vocation was that of an opera dancer. Far into middle life I never saw beautiful dancing without a rapture of enthusiasm, and used to repeat from memory whole dances after seeing Duvernay or Ellsler, as persons with a good musical ear can repeat the airs of the opera first heard the night before. And I remember, during Ellsler’s visit to America, when I had long left off dancing in society, being so transported with her execution of a Spanish dance called “El Jaleo de Xerxes,” that I was detected by my cook, who came suddenly upon me in my store-room, in the midst of sugar, rice, tea, coffee, flour, etc., standing on the tips of my toes, with my arms above my head, in one of the attitudes I had most admired in that striking and picturesque performance. The woman withdrew in speechless amazement, and I alighted on my heels, feeling wonderfully foolish. How I thought I never should be able to leave off dancing! And so I thought of riding! and so I thought of singing! and could not imagine what life would be like when I could no more do these things. I was not wrong, perhaps, in thinking it would be difficult to leave them off: I had no conception how easily they would leave me off.