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PAGE 3

After the Dance
by [?]

“‘The quadrille after supper is mine,’ I said, taking her to her place.

“‘Of course, if I am not carried off home,’ she said, with a smile.

“‘I won’t give you up,’ I said.

“‘Give me my fan, anyhow,’ she answered.

“‘I am so sorry to part with it,’ I said, handing her a cheap white fan.

“‘Well, here’s something to console you,’ she said, plucking a feather out of the fan, and giving it to me.

“I took the feather, and could only express my rapture and gratitude with my eyes. I was not only pleased and gay, I was happy, delighted; I was good, I was not myself but some being not of this earth, knowing nothing of evil. I hid the feather in my glove, and stood there unable to tear myself away from her.

“‘Look, they are urging father to dance,’ she said to me, pointing to the tall, stately figure of her father, a colonel with silver epaulettes, who was standing in the doorway with some ladies.

“‘Varinka, come here!’ exclaimed our hostess, the lady with the diamond ferronniere and with shoulders like Elizabeth, in a loud voice.

“‘Varinka went to the door, and I followed her.

“‘Persuade your father to dance the mazurka with you, ma chere.–Do, please, Peter Valdislavovich,’ she said, turning to the colonel.

“Varinka’s father was a very handsome, well-preserved old man. He had a good colour, moustaches curled in the style of Nicolas I., and white whiskers which met the moustaches. His hair was combed on to his forehead, and a bright smile, like his daughter’s, was on his lips and in his eyes. He was splendidly set up, with a broad military chest, on which he wore some decorations, and he had powerful shoulders and long slim legs. He was that ultra-military type produced by the discipline of Emperor Nicolas I.

“When we approached the door the colonel was just refusing to dance, saying that he had quite forgotten how; but at that instant he smiled, swung his arm gracefully around to the left, drew his sword from its sheath, handed it to an obliging young man who stood near, and smoothed his suede glove on his right hand.

“‘Everything must be done according to rule,’ he said with a smile. He took the hand of his daughter, and stood one-quarter turned, waiting for the music.

“At the first sound of the mazurka, he stamped one foot smartly, threw the other forward, and, at first slowly and smoothly, then buoyantly and impetuously, with stamping of feet and clicking of boots, his tall, imposing figure moved the length of the room. Varinka swayed gracefully beside him, rhythmically and easily, making her steps short or long, with her little feet in their white satin slippers.

“All the people in the room followed every movement of the couple. As for me I not only admired, I regarded them with enraptured sympathy. I was particularly impressed with the old gentleman’s boots. They were not the modern pointed affairs, but were made of cheap leather, squared-toed, and evidently built by the regimental cobbler. In order that his daughter might dress and go out in society, he did not buy fashionable boots, but wore home-made ones, I thought, and his square toes seemed to me most touching. It was obvious that in his time he had been a good dancer; but now he was too heavy, and his legs had not spring enough for all the beautiful steps he tried to take. Still, he contrived to go twice round the room. When at the end, standing with legs apart, he suddenly clicked his feet together and fell on one knee, a bit heavily, and she danced gracefully around him, smiling and adjusting her skirt, the whole room applauded.

“Rising with an effort, he tenderly took his daughter’s face between his hands. He kissed her on the forehead, and brought her to me, under the impression that I was her partner for the mazurka. I said I was not. ‘Well, never mind. just go around the room once with her,’ he said, smiling kindly, as he replaced his sword in the sheath.