The Voyage Out HTML version

Chapter XII
When Susan's engagement had been approved at home, and made public to any one who
took an interest in it at the hotel--and by this time the society at the hotel was divided so
as to point to invisible chalk-marks such as Mr. Hirst had described, the news was felt to
justify some celebration--an expedition? That had been done already. A dance then. The
advantage of a dance was that it abolished one of those long evenings which were apt to
become tedious and lead to absurdly early hours in spite of bridge.
Two or three people standing under the erect body of the stuffed leopard in the hall very
soon had the matter decided. Evelyn slid a pace or two this way and that, and pronounced
that the floor was excellent. Signor Rodriguez informed them of an old Spaniard who
fiddled at weddings--fiddled so as to make a tortoise waltz; and his daughter, although
endowed with eyes as black as coal-scuttles, had the same power over the piano. If there
were any so sick or so surly as to prefer sedentary occupations on the night in question to
spinning and watching others spin, the drawing-room and billiard-room were theirs.
Hewet made it his business to conciliate the outsiders as much as possible. To Hirst's
theory of the invisible chalk-marks he would pay no attention whatever. He was treated
to a snub or two, but, in reward, found obscure lonely gentlemen delighted to have this
opportunity of talking to their kind, and the lady of doubtful character showed every
symptom of confiding her case to him in the near future. Indeed it was made quite
obvious to him that the two or three hours between dinner and bed contained an amount
of unhappiness, which was really pitiable, so many people had not succeeded in making
It was settled that the dance was to be on Friday, one week after the engagement, and at
dinner Hewet declared himself satisfied.
"They're all coming!" he told Hirst. "Pepper!" he called, seeing William Pepper slip past
in the wake of the soup with a pamphlet beneath his arm, "We're counting on you to open
the ball."
"You will certainly put sleep out of the question," Pepper returned.
"You are to take the floor with Miss Allan," Hewet continued, consulting a sheet of
pencilled notes.
Pepper stopped and began a discourse upon round dances, country dances, morris dances,
and quadrilles, all of which are entirely superior to the bastard waltz and spurious polka
which have ousted them most unjustly in contemporary popularity--when the waiters
gently pushed him on to his table in the corner.
The dining-room at this moment had a certain fantastic resemblance to a farmyard
scattered with grain on which bright pigeons kept descending. Almost all the ladies wore
dresses which they had not yet displayed, and their hair rose in waves and scrolls so as to