The Middle-Aged Chaperon

The miseries of the chaperon.


The charge who cannot dance.

Many are the miseries of the middle-aged chaperon! Is it not enough, think you, to see one’s lost youth reflected in the blithesome scene, to remember the waltzes of long ago, to recall the partners of the past, and the pleasant homage no longer forthcoming, and to feel within a response to the music and the rhythm of the dance, ridiculously incongruous with an elderly exterior, without suffering any added woes? And yet they are manifold. There are the draughts! Windows opened for the relief of heated dancers, pour down cold airs on the uncovered shoulders of chilly chaperons. What cared they for draughts in the long-ago, when all the world was young? But now a draught is a fearsome thing. But worse, far worse, is the girl who cannot dance, who treads on her partners’ toes, and knocks against their knees, and is returned with a scowl to her wretched chaperon. “I know you are going to the Mumpshire ball,” says some one. “Would you mind taking my girl with you?” If she is a bad performer she is returned with astonishing alacrity and punctuality at the end of each dance; and quite perceptibly to her temporary guardian’s practised eye is the word passed round among the young men to avoid her as they would the—something. After a few dances, a sense of vicarious guilt seizes upon the chaperon. She knows the shortcomings of her charge are to be visited partly upon herself, and she anticipates the angry glare with which each man returns the young woman, and retreats in haste, malevolently eyeing the chaperon.

The reward.

And the reward? The reward is to be treated with great stiffness by the girl’s mother, and to hear that she said: “I shall never ask Mrs. What’s-her-name to take my girl to a ball again. Her own daughters danced every dance, while my poor child was left out in the cold. I think they might have introduced their partners to her.”


And Death.

Such are the small gnat-like stings of the present moment, while the poor chaperon is remembering the dances of long ago, the dark-eyed partner who waltzed so exquisitely, and whose grave is in the dismal African swamp so far away; the lively, laughing, joking boy who would put his name down for half a dozen dances, only to have it promptly scratched out again with many scoldings. He is now a very fat man with a disagreeable habit of snorting in cold weather. How gladly the chaperon’s thoughts fly away from him, living, substantial, commonplace, to the poor fellow who died at sea on his way home from that horrid war in Afghanistan. How strangely true it is that were it not for grisly Death, and pain and grief, there would be no true romance in all the world. If every life were an epic, or an idyll, would not both be commonplace?

  By PanEris using Melati.

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