Adam Bede HTML version

26.The Dance
ARTHUR had chosen the entrance-hall for the ballroom: very wisely, for no other
room could have heen so airy, or would have had the advantage of the wide
doors opening into the garden, as well as a ready entrance into the other rooms.
To be sure, a stone floor was not the pleasantest to dance on, but then, most of
the dancers had known what it was to enjoy a Christmas dance on kitchen
quarries. It was one of those entrance-halls which make the surrounding rooms
look like closets--with stucco angels, trumpets, and flower-wreaths on the lofty
ceiling, and great medallions of miscellaneous heroes on the walls, alternating
with statues in niches. Just the sort of place to be ornamented well with green
boughs, and Mr. Craig had been proud to show his taste and his hothouse plants
on the occasion. The broad steps of the stone staircase were covered with
cushions to serve as seats for the children, who were to stay till half-past nine
with the servant- maids to see the dancing, and as this dance was confined to
the chief tenants, there was abundant room for every one. The lights were
charmingly disposed in coloured-paper lamps, high up among green boughs, and
the farmers' wives and daughters, as they peeped in, believed no scene could be
more splendid; they knew now quite well in what sort of rooms the king and
queen lived, and their thoughts glanced with some pity towards cousins and
acquaintances who had not this fine opportunity of knowing how things went on
in the great world. The lamps were already lit, though the sun had not long set,
and there was that calm light out of doors in which we seem to see all objects
more distinctly than in the broad day.
It was a pretty scene outside the house: the farmers and their families were
moving about the lawn, among the flowers and shrubs, or along the broad
straight road leading from the east front, where a carpet of mossy grass spread
on each side, studded here and there with a dark flat-boughed cedar, or a grand
pyramidal fir sweeping the ground with its branches, all tipped with a fringe of
paler green. The groups of cottagers in the park were gradually diminishing, the
young ones being attracted towards the lights that were beginning to gleam from
the windows of the gallery in the abbey, which was to be their dancing-room, and
some of the sober elder ones thinking it time to go home quietly. One of these
was Lisbeth Bede, and Seth went with her--not from filial attention only, for his
conscience would not let him join in dancing. It had been rather a melancholy day
to Seth: Dinah had never been more constantly present with him than in this
scene, where everything was so unlike her. He saw her all the more vividly after
looking at the thoughtless faces and gay-coloured dresses of the young women--
just as one feels the beauty and the greatness of a pictured Madonna the more
when it has been for a moment screened from us by a vulgar head in a bonnet.
But this presence of Dinah in his mind only helped him to bear the better with his
mother's mood, which had been becoming more and more querulous for the last
hour. Poor Lisbeth was suffering from a strange conflict of feelings. Her joy and