A Charity Ball

At the present time there are few people at a public ball besides the dancers and their chaperons, or relations in some degree interested in them. But in the days when Molly and Cynthia were young—before railroads were, and before their consequences, the excursion-trains, which take every one up to London now-a-days, there to see their fill of gay crowds and fine dresses—going to an annual charity- ball, even though all thought of dancing had passed by years ago, and without any of the responsibilities of a chaperon, was a very allowable and favourite piece of dissipation to all the kindly old maids who thronged the country towns of England. They aired their old lace and their best dresses; they saw the aristocratic magnates of the country side; they gossipped with their coevals, and speculated on the romances of the young around them in a curious, yet friendly, spirit. The Miss Brownings would have thought themselves sadly defrauded of the gayest event of the year, if anything had prevented their attending the charity- ball; and Miss Browning would have been indignant, Miss Phœbe aggrieved, had they not been asked to Ashcombe and Coreham, by friends at each place, who had, like them, gone through the dancingstage of life some five-and-twenty years before, but who liked still to haunt the scenes of their former enjoyment, and see a younger generation dance on, “regardless of their doom.” They had come in one of the two sedan-chairs that yet lingered in use at Hollingford; such a night as this brought a regular harvest of gains to the two old men who, in what was called the “town’s livery,” trotted backwards and forwards with their many loads of ladies and finery. There were some post-chaises, and some “flys”; but, after mature deliberation, Miss Browning had decided to keep to the more comfortable custom of the sedan-chair, “which,” as she said to Miss Piper, one of her visitors, “came into the parlour, and got full of the warm air, and nipped you up and carried you tight and cosy into another warm room, where you could walk out without having to show your legs by going up steps, or down steps.” Of course, only one could go at a time; but here again a little of Miss Browning’s good management arranged everything so very nicely, as Miss Hornblower (their other visitor) remarked. She went first, and remained in the warm cloak-room until her hostess followed; and then the two ladies went arm-in-arm into the ball-room, finding out convenient seats whence they could watch the arrivals and speak to their passing friends, until Miss Phœbe and Miss Piper entered, and came to take possession of the seats reserved for them by Miss Browning’s care. These two younger ladies came in, also arm-in-arm, but with a certain timid flurry in look and movement very different from the composed dignity of their seniors (by two or three years). When all four were once more assembled together, they took breath, and began to converse.

“Upon my word, I really do think this is a better room than our Ashcombe Court-house!”

“And how prettily it is decorated!” piped out Miss Piper. “How well the roses are made! But you all have such taste at Hollingford.”

“There’s Mrs. Dempster,” cried Miss Hornblower; “she said she and her two daughters were asked to stay at Mr. Sheepshanks’. Mr. Preston was to be there, too; but I suppose they could not all come at once. Look! and there is young Roscoe, our new doctor. I declare it seems as if all Ashcombe were here. Mr. Roscoe! Mr. Roscoe! come here and let me introduce you to Miss Browning, the friend we are staying with. We think very highly of our young doctor, I can assure you, Miss Browning.”

Mr. Roscoe bowed and simpered at hearing his own praises. But Miss Browning had no notion of having any doctor praised who had come to settle on the very verge of Mr. Gibson’s practice; so she said to Miss Hornblower—

“You must be glad, I am sure, to have somebody you can call in, if you are in a sudden hurry, or for things that are too trifling to trouble Mr. Gibson about; and I should think Mr. Roscoe would feel it a great advantage to profit, as he will naturally have the opportunity of doing, by witnessing Mr. Gibson’s skill!”

Probably, Mr. Roscoe would have felt more aggrieved by this speech than he really was, if his attention had not been called off, just then, by the entrance of the very Mr. Gibson who was being spoken of. Almost before Miss Browning had ended her severe and depreciatory remark, she had asked his friend Miss Hornblower—

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.