20. The Concert
One morning, Mrs. Bretton, coming promptly into my room, desired me to open my
drawers and show her my dresses; which I did, without a word.
'That will do,' said she, when she had turned them over. 'You must have a new one.'
She went out. She returned presently with a dress-maker. She had me measured. 'I mean,'
said she, 'to follow my own taste, and to have my own way in this little matter.'
Two days after came home - a pink dress!
'That is not for me,' I said, hurriedly, feeling that I would almost as soon clothe myself in
the costume of a Chinese lady of rank.
'We shall see whether it is for you or not,' rejoined my godmother, adding with her
resistless decision: 'Mark my words. You will wear it this very evening.'
I thought I should not: I thought no human force should avail to put me into it. A pink
dress! I knew it not. It knew not me. I had not proved it.
My godmother went on to decree that I was to go with her and Graham to a concert that
same night: which concert, she explained, was a grand affair to be held in the large salle,
or hall, of the principal musical society. The most advanced of the pupils of the
Conservatoire were to perform: it was to be followed by a lottery 'au bénéfice des
pauvres'; and to crown all, the King, Queen and Prince of Labassecour were to be
present. Graham, in sending tickets, had enjoined attention to costume as a compliment
due to royalty: he also recommended punctual readiness by seven o'clock.
About six, I was ushered upstairs. Without any force at all, I found myself led and
influenced by another's will, unconsulted, unpersuaded, quietly over-ruled. In short, the
pink dress went on, softened by some drapery of black lace. I was pronounced to be en
grande ténue, and requested to look in the glass. I did so with some fear and trembling;
with more fear and trembling, I turned away. Seven o'clock struck; Dr. Bretton was
come; my godmother and I went down. She was clad in brown velvet; as I walked in her
shadow, how I envied her those folds of grave, dark majesty! Graham stood in the
'I do hope he will not think I have been decking myself out to draw attention,' was my
'Here, Lucy, are some flowers,' said he, giving me a bouquet. He took no further notice of
my dress than was conveyed in a kind smile and satisfied nod, which calmed at once my
sense of shame and fear of ridicule. For the rest, the dress was made with extreme
simplicity, guiltless of flounce or furbelow; it was but the light fabric and bright tint