When William Came HTML version

An Evening “to Be Remembered”
To the uninitiated or unappreciative the dancing of Gorla Mustelford did not seem widely
different from much that had been exhibited aforetime by exponents of the posturing
school. She was not naturally graceful of movement, she had not undergone years of
arduous tutelage, she had not the instinct for sheer joyous energy of action that is stored
in some natures; out of these unpromising negative qualities she had produced a style of
dancing that might best be labelled a conscientious departure from accepted methods.
The highly imaginative titles that she had bestowed on her dances, the “Life of a fern,”
the “Soul-dream of a topaz,” and so forth, at least gave her audience and her critics
something to talk about. In themselves they meant absolutely nothing, but they induced
discussion, and that to Gorla meant a great deal. It was a season of dearth and emptiness
in the footlights and box-office world, and her performance received a welcome that
would scarcely have befallen it in a more crowded and prosperous day. Her success,
indeed, had been waiting for her, ready-made, as far as the managerial profession was
concerned, and nothing had been left undone in the way of advertisement to secure for it
the appearance, at any rate, of popular favour. And loud above the interested applause of
those who had personal or business motives for acclaiming a success swelled the
exaggerated enthusiasm of the fairly numerous art-satellites who are unstinted in their
praise of anything that they are certain they cannot understand. Whatever might be the
subsequent verdict of the theatre-filling public the majority of the favoured first-night
audience was determined to set the seal of its approval on the suggestion dances, and a
steady roll of applause greeted the conclusion of each item. The dancer gravely bowed
her thanks; in marked contradistinction to the gentleman who had “presented” the
performing wolves she did not permit herself the luxury of a smile.
“It teaches us a great deal,” said Rhapsodic Pantril vaguely, but impressively, after the
Fern dance had been given and applauded.
“At any rate we know now that a fern takes life very seriously,” broke in Joan Mardle,
who had somehow wriggled herself into Cicely’s box.
As Yeovil, from the back of his gallery, watched Gorla running and ricochetting about
the stage, looking rather like a wagtail in energetic pursuit of invisible gnats and midges,
he wondered how many of the middle-aged women who were eagerly applauding her
would have taken the least notice of similar gymnastics on the part of their offspring in
nursery or garden, beyond perhaps asking them not to make so much noise. And a
bitterer tinge came to his thoughts as he saw the bouquets being handed up, thoughts of
the brave old dowager down at Torywood, the woman who had worked and wrought so
hard and so unsparingly in her day for the well-being of the State—the State that had
fallen helpless into alien hands before her tired eyes. Her eldest son lived invalid-wise in
the South of France, her second son lay fathoms deep in the North Sea, with the hulk of a
broken battleship for a burial-vault; and now the grand-daughter was standing here in the
limelight, bowing her thanks for the patronage and favour meted out to her by this
cosmopolitan company, with its lavish sprinkling of the uniforms of an alien army.