Fancy was dancing with Mr. Shiner. Dick knew that Fancy, by the law of good manners, was bound to dance as pleasantly with one partner as with another; yet he could not help suggesting to himself that she need not have put quite so much spirit into her steps, nor smiled quite so frequently whilst in the farmer’s hands.
“I’m afraid you didn’t cast off,” said Dick mildly to Mr. Shiner, before the latter man’s watch-chain had done vibrating from a recent whirl.
Fancy made a motion of accepting the correction; but her partner took no notice, and proceeded with the next movement, with an affectionate bend towards her.
“That Shiner’s too fond of her,” the young man said to himself as he watched them. They came to the top again, Fancy smiling warmly towards her partner, and went to their places.
“Mr. Shiner, you didn’t cast off,” said Dick, for want of something else to demolish him with; casting off himself, and being put out at the farmer’s irregularity.
“Perhaps I sha’n’t cast off for any man,” said Mr. Shiner.
“I think you ought to, sir.”
Dick’s partner, a young lady of the name of Lizzy—called Lizz for short—tried to mollify.
“I can’t say that I myself have much feeling for casting off,” she said.
“Nor I,” said Mrs. Penny, following up the argument, “especially if a friend and neighbour is set against it. Not but that ’tis a terrible tasty thing in good hands and well done; yes, indeed, so say I.”
“All I meant was,” said Dick, rather sorry that he had spoken correctingly to a guest, “that ’tis in the dance; and a man has hardly any right to hack and mangle what was ordained by the regular dance-maker, who, I daresay, got his living by making ’em, and thought of nothing else all his life.”
“I don’t like casting off: then very well; I cast off for no dance-maker that ever lived.”
Dick now appeared to be doing mental arithmetic, the act being really an effort to present to himself, in an abstract form, how far an argument with a formidable rival ought to be carried, when that rival was his mother’s guest. The dead-lock was put an end to by the stamping arrival up the middle of the tranter, who, despising minutiae on principle, started a theme of his own.
“I assure you, neighbours,” he said, “the heat of my frame no tongue can tell!” He looked around and endeavoured to give, by a forcible gaze of self-sympathy, some faint idea of the truth.
Mrs. Dewy formed one of the next couple.
“Yes,” she said, in an auxiliary tone, “Reuben always was such a hot man.”
Mrs. Penny implied the species of sympathy that such a class of affliction required, by trying to smile and to look grieved at the same time.
“If he only walk round the garden of a Sunday morning, his shirt-collar is as limp as no starch at all,” continued Mrs. Dewy, her countenance lapsing parenthetically into a housewifely expression of concern at the reminiscence.