Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter IV.: GRIEF AND DANCING. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 6 (Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek, The Loom and the Lugger Parts 1 & 2)
Return to Title Page for Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 6 (Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek, The Loom and the Lugger Parts 1 & 2)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Chapter IV.: GRIEF AND DANCING. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 6 (Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek, The Loom and the Lugger Parts 1 & 2) 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 6.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
GRIEF AND DANCING.
Rebecca was so anxious about her appointment, that she arrived at the dancing-school some time before the party she expected to meet. A family of pretty little children were just sashed and sandalled, and made ready to enter the great room, when she arrived; and she drew back, with her usual modesty, to allow them and their governess to pass. Their dancing-school curtsey filled her with admiration; and she pulled up her head, and began bending her knees in involuntary imitation, when she remembered that she had better not try anything so new before so many spectators as were assembled in the room. She went up to the dancing-master, in her usual stumping pace, and apologized for not making such a curtsey on her entrance as those young ladies, as she had not been used to it. Mr. Brown condescended to give her a grin and a nod; and, when he saw her stand as if not knowing where to turn next, did her the further favour of pointing with his fiddle-bow to a seat which she might be permitted to occupy.
There she sat, absorbed in what she saw, till nurse arrived with Miss Charlotte and Miss Lucy in their new frocks, new shoes, new gloves, and all things newer, if not handsomer, than the Miss Bremes'.
“They are not here yet,” whispered the one sister to the other.
“No, not yet: but I hope they will be sure to come. Why, look! there is Adèle, and her sister with her! Nurse, we will go and sit beside Adèle, and then you and Miss Pim can have your talk comfortably by yourselves. I am sure the Jenkinsons will make room for us on their bench.”
The Jenkinsons made room, and it was immediately discovered that Adèle came to learn to dance; upon hearing which, Lucy fell into a reverie which lasted till a twang of the fiddle called her up for her first quadrille.
Rebecca could not help breaking off her answers to nurse's questions to wonder at Lucy's dancing, and admire the height of her jumps, which, however, did not seem to please Mr. Brown quite so well.
“Gently, gently, Miss Lucy,” said he. “There may be too much activity, ma'am, as well as too little. We are not at a leaping-match, ma'am.”
Lucy blushed and smiled, and still went on, sometimes nearly losing her balance, and having already lost any grace she might have been accustomed to display. She threw out her feet, sometimes heel foremost, stuck her elbows in her sides to give herself more concentrated power for a jump, and over-reached her mark in crossing, till she nearly pulled her partner down. Mr. Brown declared, at last, that he must send for a neighbouring builder to ascertain whether the room was strong enough to bear Miss Lucy's dancing.
“Poor thing!” exclaimed Rebecca, “why should not they let her dance as merrily as she likes? I will never stint my scholars in their jumps.”
Nurse thought that on the sea-shore, or on the green, it was different from the present occasion. Miss Lucy came to learn to dance, not to practise leaping. She could not imagine what possessed the child to-day to dance as she did. Lucy was not strong, and there was trouble enough sometimes in getting her to do more than merely shuffle her feet.
“She just makes up when she is in spirits for what she can't do at other times,” was Rebecca's good-natured excuse, as she smiled at the happy-looking fluttered Lucy.
Nurse beckoned the offender across the room to receive a rebuke, as soon as the quadrille was finished; and Lucy came smiling, panting, and fanning herself, and went away again, not at all disheartened by nurse's lecture on manners. She was observed, as she took her seat, to look up at Mademoiselle and Adèle, as much as to say, “What do you think of my dancing?” Mademoiselle smiled, and Adèle looked indifferent.
“Well, ma'am,” said nurse, “so the Lieutenant's lady was very sorry for my poor son. I remember he said something of her once in a letter or a message.”
“Said something of her! Why, well he might. He seemed to think of little but pleasing or displeasing her; and she was kind to him accordingly. I used to think he would never put his hat on again, when he had taken it off to be spoken to by the ladies from the station-house.”
“Aye, there is another lady too. Was she kind to my poor son also?”
“All very well: but Miss Storey had always more partiality for our people than for the Preventive men. Poor father said,—one of the last jokes I have heard him make,—that he saw nothing for it but Miss Elizabeth taking to drinking or smoking, as she is so partial to smuggling and all that sort of thing, and as she must now get what she used to have so in other ways.”
“But gloves come over against the law still, do not they?”
“Very few, high as the duty is. They are not sought after as they were a while ago, for they say the English gloves are nearly as good and as cheap now, and there are many more made. They say at the Custom-house that near twice as many skins come into the country as there were a few years ago; and so there is no occasion to smuggle so many French.”
“So Miss Storey does not go down to the poor people's cottages as she used to do, my son told me, stealing out of sight of the guard?”
“Not she. She walks quite disconsolate along the beach to the east, instead of going in and out, above and below, among the downs, as she used to do when she had something- to go out for.”
“And the Lieutenant's lady too; does she go out as formerly?”
“As much as ever; but then she has something to do that makes it worth while. She gets one of the Preventive people to carry a little light table and her portfolio; and she paints,—never minding the wind or the sun, or anything. If it blows much, she pins her paper down at the corners, and puts her hair back, and paints away: and if the sun is hot, up goes her large umbrella, and still she paints away.”
“Dear me! What does she paint? I wonder whether she ever painted my poor son.”
“I think she hardly began after her marriage till the spring weather came on, and——”
“Ah! it was March when lie came by his end. The 3d of March, at half-past one in the morning, they tell me; ma'am.”
“The lady has painted a good many of the guard, though,” continued Rebecca, wishing to change the subject. “She has a number of pictures of them, some drawing water at the wells on the downs, or sitting polishing their arms in the martello towers, or feeding their pigs at the station-house. We used to hear strangers call those towers very ugly things; but she has made a world of pretty pictures of them, looking as different as if they were not the same places.”
“She must be a clever lady, then; for there is nothing to my mind so dull and uniform as those towers. They are worse than the houses I saw last year in the Regent's Park,—all alike, except such little differences as don't signify.”
“Mrs. Storey would make even them look different, I fancy: for, as to these towers,—some are white, standing on a yellow sand, with a dark blue sky behind, and the sea a darker blue still,—which you know it is sometimes. And then she makes a shadow from a cloud come over the tower, and the sea all streaked with different colours; and then it is the turn of the sails at sea to be white,—and a bird, perhaps, hovering over the dark parts. Once she went out when the moon was near the full, the Lieutenant himself carrying her cloak and her sketch-book that time, and she wanting nothing besides but her case of pencils. From that sketch she made a beautiful picture of a grey sea, with the foam white in the moonlight; and in that case, the tower was quite black on the side of the shadow, and so was the guard on watch, as you saw him between you and the surf.”
“I wish she had painted my poor boy, ma'am; or that he had lived to carry her table. It would have made him so proud! But you say she was sorry for what happened to him?”
“Everybody was sorry. Father, for one, has never got over it. But the lady was on the beach when—when——”
“I know what you mean, my dear. Go on.”
“Well; she looked so,—you can't think. Father was quite pale when he came out from among the crowd of children that had got about the mouth of the cavern; but he was nothing to her, in the comparison.”
“Indeed! Well—my dear——”
“O! so white, and so grieved, more than frightened. She beckoned father to her, to settle what to do till some of the guard could come; and then she called the children after her, and went away, to take them away, though she could hardly walk.”
“Dear me!” was all that escaped from nurse, who could not prevent its being seen through her emotion that she was flattered by this tale: and she did not attempt to conceal her gratification at hearing what a crowd attended the funeral, and how the people gathered to read and hear read the proclamation of reward for the detection of the murderers. And all this interest was about her son! Nothing could ever make up to her, she told Rebecca, for his body being hidden for a time, as it was. It would have been such a consolation to her to know that he made as beautiful a corpse as she had often said he would. Those who had seen how her boy looked when he was asleep might be sure that he would look better when he was dead than ever he did when he was alive.
While Rebecca was meditating what she could say by way of consolation for Nicholas not having made so beautiful a corpse as might have been expected from him, certain sounds from the other side of the room attracted her attention, and half diverted poor nurse's.
“So the Lieutenant said of him..... O! no need to start, ma'am, at Mr. Brown's rapping his fiddle. He is never really in a passion, though he pretends anger, to keep the young folks in order.”
“But they have done something to make him angry. Hark! what a rattling in the fiddle!”
“But look at the corners of Mr. Brown's mouth. He does not know how to help laughing all the time.”
“As the children find out,” observed Rehecca, seeing how the boys peeped over one another's shoulders to see the effect of the old joke of putting pease into a violin.
“And the girls are all huddled together, not a bit like young ladies,” added nurse, moving solemnly towards her charge, patting their backs, chucking their chins, and ascertaining that their feet were in the first position. Alas! they were in none of the five lawful positions.
“Let us see what Adèle will make of her positions,” whispered Lucy, as she saw the little French girl led out, to take, as was supposed, her first lesson. “She does not seem to mind it; but she will when she finds she cannot keep her balance in the curtsey at the last”.
She was surprised that Mr. Brown tuned his violin. Music was not wanted for teaching the positions. Mr. Brown must be in an absent fit; and Adèle must be very conceited to smile and look at her ease, on such an occasion. When she should have learned two years, and be able to dance the same quadrilles as Lucy, she might look at ease, and welcome: but already——
Already Adèle showed that she knew one position at least. Before the words “Point the toe, ma'am,” had passed the dancing-master's lips, the toe was pointed as if the whole foot was made of something as flexible as the thin sole of the little shoe.
“I do believe Adèle can dance,” burst from Lucy's lips, as the fiddle-bow gave its last flourish before making music. There was no further room for doubt, though much for wonder. Adèle sped away,—much as if she was winged: round and round,—hither and thither,—up and down and across, not half so much out of breath with the exertion as Lucy was with witnessing it, and with some thoughts which came into her mind. “What a silly, stupid, vain thing. I have been! I hope Adèle and Mademoiselle did not find out that I wanted to show off to them. How very bad Adèle must think my dancing, to be sure! I did hear the windows rattle once, when I had jumped very high; and Adèle comes down as light as a feather. I wish we could get back to two o'clock again. If I could make them all forget this last hour, I would never show off again; at least, not till I was sure that I could do a thing better than other people.” And Lucy held her fan to her chin to watch the rest of Adèle's performance in mute admiration.
“Look, now, at that child of mine, with her fan at her chin, of all places!” observed nurse, a-hemming to catch Lucy's attention, and then bridling, and placing her knitting-needles (for nurse carried her knitting everywhere but to church, and there fell asleep for want of it) in the position in which she thought a fan ought to be held. Lucy, vexed to be interrupted in her scrutiny, and so often chidden, tossed her fan into her sister's lap, and turned to Mademoiselle to talk, and thereby avoid the necessity of perceiving nurse's signs.
“Ay, that's the way children do,” said nurse; “that was just as my poor boy used to turn and get away from me, when I had been whipping him, all for his good, as I used to tell him, and to make a great man of him. He never liked it, nor saw what a great man he might be some day, guarding his country on the top of those cliffs, and dying, and all.”
“And all for nothing,” added the matter-of-fact Rebecca; “which must make it the more hurting to you. Nay, now, do not look so offended, as if I had said that Nicholas did not do his duty. He did what he could; but it always seems to me a great fuss about nothing.”
“About nothing, ma'am? Is smuggling nothing?”
“That Coast Guard can't prevent smuggling, after all; and if they could, is not it a much cheaper way of preventing it, to make smuggling not worth while? Here, with all their spying, and searching, and seizing, they can lay their hands on only 5000l. worth of smuggled silk in a year, while we all know that fifty times that much comes to be worn. Is not it a great fuss about nothing to risk men's lives for a little matter like that? And they get no more in proportion of tobacco or spirits, or anything else; so, as father says, they might as well put smuggling out of our thoughts at once, or let us do it in peace and quiet. Father has had no peace and quiet this long while, nor ever will have till we find him something to do; and that is hard to find. There is my brother out of the Custom-house, too, being no longer wanted now they are reducing the business and the salaries, and even talking of shutting up the Custom-house.”
“You ought to be sorry, then, that people smuggle less than they did,—as sorry as I fancy your father is, my dear.”
“Why, as for that, it is very well to be in the Custom-house, to collect the dues the government ought to have; but, for my part, I never liked my brother's having to look to the seized goods, which sometimes happened to be what he would rather have seen anywhere else. If he had at once set himself to something else——”
“You had better send him here; my master wants more hands.”
“With all my heart. If he had set himself to supply people's demands at home, instead of preventing their being supplied from abroad, it would have been all very well. But he liked better to marry, and live upon my father, (supposing father to be rich,) than to work at a new business; and now I must keep school, and do what I can for them all. Dear me! what a pretty dance that is! I do not know what I am to do. if the parents expect my girls to dance in that manner. I forgot to look at Miss Lucy this time. Oh, ma'am, what can be the matter with her? Do look how she is crying. Bless her poor heart! how the tears run down!”
Lucy did, at this moment, exhibit a somewhat extraordinary spectacle,—weeping and cutting capers, sobbing and attitudinizing, and looking dolorously in the face of her partner (one of the Master Bremes) whenever the turns of the dance obliged them to regard each other. If she would have given any rational excuse for her emotion, she would have been excused from dancing in tears; but she was mute, and must therefore take her turn with her companions. The fact was, that, while standing up and waiting for the signal to begin, Lucy had chanced to turn her eyes on a mirror that hung opposite, and to see a young gentleman behind her wriggling in imitation of her earlier exploits of this day; and, what was worse, she saw that Mr. Brown indulged in a broad grin at the joke. Not all her attempts to think of something pleasant,—of her new frock, Mademoiselle's museum, and the kitten promised by Adèle,—could enable her to keep down her tears. They only came the faster the more she struggled against them; and all hope of concealing them was over before Rebecca's kind heart became moved by her sorrow, and Adèle squeezed in sympathy the hand which she encountered in the course of the figure. This sympathy only aggravated the evil: it caused a long, crowing sob to resound through the room, moving the boys to laughter, and everybody else to pity. It was a lost case, and the credit of the day,—of Adèle's first day at the dancing-school,—was irretrievable.
Mademoiselle removed to a seat next nurse, to inquire what could have been the matter with Lucy all this day; and when told that she had been well and in high spirits up to the moment of entering the room, she was anxious to be allowed to feel her pulse, and ascertain whether there was fever in the case,—nothing short of fever being, in her opinion, sufficient to account for her alternate boisterousness and melancholy. Lucy being surrendered to Mademoiselle, presently began to grow calm. The scarlet flush which had spread over her neck faded, and the sobs subsided, as she assured her friend that she was not at all ill: it was all her own fault. This mystery was received in respectful silence, and a long pause ensued, at the end of which Lucy looked up through her tears to say,—
“How beautifully Adèle dances!”
“Yes, she dances prettily; but she wants practice, and does not take exercise enough; and that is the reason why we have brought her to learn again. Adèle is a lazy girl in some things: are you not, Adèle?”
“But where did she learn to dance? I never saw such dancing. I do not believe anybody here will ever dance so well. There's Nancy Breme: her feet go well enough, but she pokes; and her sister carries her head high enough,—mighty high,—like the proud that are going to have a fall, nurse says; but she turns in the left foot, as Mr. Brown is for ever telling her. And there is——”
“Well, well; we will not dispute Adèle's dancing better than any body here.”
“O, but I was going to say myself too. I meant to find fault with my own dancing, and Charlotte's.”
“No occasion, my dear. I have heard what Mr. Brown has to say about it, you know; and he is a better judge than either of us. Perhaps you will go with us to Lyons, some day, and see where Adèle used to dance, under the chestnuts by the river-side. Or, if you must have boards to dance on, you shall go to M. Carillon's country-house, where you may waltz in his summer saloon, with roses hanging in at the window.”
“Is that the M. Carillon who sent you those beautiful shells? And is his great new present come for your museum?”
“It is on its way, and we may hear of its arrival any day. You shall come and see it when it is unpacked and in its place. Now, do you think you can dance again? Mr. Brown looks as if he wanted a partner for that merry boy.”
“O, I cannot dance with him,” exclaimed Lucy. “Yes, I will, though he did laugh at me. I find fault with other people, I know, so I suppose it is fair that they should with me.”
And she started up, and offered herself to dance; and a sign from the good-natured Mr. Brown forbade any one from staring at her red eyes.
“Well, ma'am,” said Rebecca to nurse, “and now that I have seen Miss Lucy comfortable asyain, I must go. I'm sure if you know of any delicate children, or others that do not want a finer education than we can give them, you will think of dame and I.”
“Yes, indeed, my dear, for the sake of my poor son. Thank you, I'm sure, for all you have told me about him; and if your father should happen to come, so as to give me a call, I think he might manage to remember a little more. And give my respects to the Lieutenant's lady, and tell her that I consider my son honoured by her preference; and tell——”
“I have been thinking, Mrs. Nicholas, whether you could not come down among us. You will be sure to see Mrs. Story yourself then; and we would make you heartily welcome in our way.”
“What! to see the very place? The cliffs, and the beach, and the very cave and all! O, my dear! Well, we will see; and many thanks to you.”
Rebecca thought it right to advertise her intended school in every possible manner, and therefore made an effort to mention her plan to Mr. Brown, observing that he was probably in the way of hearing of children who wanted sea-air and nursing; and that they would be well taken care of, though she could not pretend to have them taught such dancing as she had seen that day.
Mr. Brown smirked, said something about reviving breezes, native elasticity, natural grace, and the hand of art, and bowed her out with an emphatic screech of his instrument, just at the moment that she was declaring him very kind.
The remainder of the lesson was passed in silence by the higher powers, as nurse could not bring herself to speak of the subject uppermost in her thoughts,—her poor son,—to a French woman, whom, as being French, she considered as in some sort, concerned in his murder.