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Chapter 7 “And Women Must Weep”

“For men must work”

She was ready at last, the last bow tied, the last strengthening pin in place, and they said to her — Auntie Cha and Miss Biddons — to sit down and rest while Auntie Cha “climbed into her own togs”: “Or you’ll be tired before the evening begins.” But she could not bring herself to sit, for fear of crushing her dress — it was so light, so airy. How glad she felt now that she had chosen muslin, and not silk as Auntie Cha had tried to persuade her. The gossamer1 like stuff seemed to float around her as she moved, and the cut of the dress made her look so tall and so different from everyday that she hardly recognised herself in the glass; the girl reflected there — in palest blue, with a wreath of corn-flowers in her hair — might have been a stranger. Never had she thought she was so pretty . . . nor had Auntie and Miss Biddons either; though all they said was: “Well, Dolly, you’ll DO.” and: “Yes, I think she will be a credit to you.” Something hot and stinging came up her throat at this: a kind of gratitude2 for her pinky-white skin, her big blue eyes and fair curly hair, and pity for those girls who hadn’t got them. Or an Auntie Cha either, to dress them and see that everything was “just so.”

Instead of sitting, she stood very stiff and straight at the window, pretending to watch for the cab, her long white gloves hanging loose over one arm so as not to soil them. But her heart was beating pit-a-pat. For this was her first real grown-up ball. It was to be held in a public hall, and Auntie Cha, where she was staying, had bought tickets and was taking her.

True, Miss Biddons rather spoilt things at the end by saying: “Now mind you don’t forget your steps in the waltz. One, two, together; four, five, six.” And in the wagonette, with her dress filling one seat, Auntie Cha’s the other, Auntie said: “Now, Dolly, remember not to look too SERIOUS. Or you’ll frighten the gentlemen off.”

But she was only doing it now because of her dress: cabs were so cramped3, the seats so narrow.

Alas4! in getting out a little accident happened. She caught the bottom of one of her flounces — the skirt was made of nothing else — on the iron step, and ripped off the selvedge. Auntie Cha said: “My DEAR, how clumsy!” She could have cried with vexation.

The woman who took their cloaks hunted everywhere, but could only find black cotton; so the torn selvedge — there was nearly half a yard of it-had just to be cut off. This left a raw edge, and when they went into the hall and walked across the enormous floor, with people sitting all round, staring, it seemed to Dolly as if every one had their eyes fixed5 on it. Auntie Cha sat down in the front row of chairs beside a lady-friend; but she slid into a chair behind.

The first dance was already over, and they were hardly seated before partners began to be taken for the second. Shyly she mustered6 the assembly. In the cloakroom, she had expected the woman to exclaim: “What a sweet pretty frock!” when she handled it. (When all she did say was: “This sort of stuff’s bound to fray7.”) And now Dolly saw that the hall was full of LOVELY dresses, some much, much prettier than hers, which suddenly began to seem rather too plain, even a little dowdy8; perhaps after all it would have been better to have chosen silk.

She wondered if Auntie Cha thought so, too. For Auntie suddenly turned and looked at her, quite hard, and then said snappily: “Come, come, child, you mustn’t tuck yourself away like that, or the gentlemen will think you don’t want to dance.” So she had to come out and sit in the front; and show that she had a programme, by holding it open on her lap.

When other ladies were being requested for the third time, and still nobody had asked to be introduced, Auntie began making signs and beckoning9 with her head to the Master of Ceremonies — a funny little fat man with a bright red beard. He waddled10 across the floor, and Auntie whispered to him behind her fan. (But she heard. And heard him answer: “Wants a partner? Why, certainly.”) And then he went away and they could see him offering her to several gentlemen. Some pointed11 to the ladies they were sitting with or standing12 in front of; some showed their programmes that these were full. One or two turned their heads and looked at her. But it was no good. So he came back and said: “Will the little lady do ME the favour?” and she had to look glad and say: “With pleasure,” and get up and dance with him. Perhaps she was a little slow about it . . . at any rate Auntie Cha made great round eyes at her. But she felt sure every one would know why he was asking her. It was the lancers, too, and he swung her off her feet at the corners, and was comic when he set to partners — putting one hand on his hip13 and the other over his head, as if he were dancing the hornpipe — and the rest of the set laughed. She was glad when it was over and she could go back to her place.

Auntie Cha’s lady-friend had a son, and he was beckoned14 to next and there was more whispering. But he was engaged to be married, and of course preferred to dance with his fiancee. When he came and bowed — to oblige his mother — he looked quite grumpy, and didn’t trouble to say all of “May I have the pleasure?” but just “The pleasure?” While she had to say “Certainly,” and pretend to be very pleased, though she didn’t feel it, and really didn’t want much to dance with him, knowing he didn’t, and that it was only out of charity. Besides, all the time they went round he was explaining things to the other girl with his eyes . . . making faces over her head. She saw him, quite plainly.

After he had brought her back — and Auntie had talked to him again — he went to a gentleman who hadn’t danced at all yet, but just stood looking on. And this one needed a lot of persuasion15. He was ugly, and lanky16, and as soon as they stood up, said quite rudely: “I’m no earthly good at this kind of thing, you know.” And he wasn’t. He trod on her foot and put her out of step, and they got into the most dreadful muddle17, right out in the middle of the floor. It was a waltz, and remembering what Miss Biddons had said, she got more and more nervous, and then went wrong herself and had to say: “I beg your pardon,” to which he said: “Granted.” She saw them in a mirror as they passed, and her face was red as red.

It didn’t get cool again either, for she had to go on sitting out, and she felt sure he was spreading it that SHE couldn’t dance. She didn’t know whether Auntie Cha had seen her mistakes, but now Auntie sort of went for her. “It’s no use, Dolly, if you don’t do YOUR share. For goodness sake, try and look more agreeable!”

So after this, in the intervals18 between the dances, she sat with a stiff little smile gummed to her lips. And, did any likely-looking partner approach the corner where they were, this widened till she felt what it was really saying was: “Here I am! Oh, PLEASE, take ME!”

She had several false hopes. Men, looking so splendid in their white shirt fronts, would walk across the floor and SEEM to be coming . . . and then it was always not her. Their eyes wouldn’t stay on her. There she sat, with her false little smile, and HER eyes fixed on them; but theirs always got away . . . flitted past . . . moved on. Once she felt quite sure. Ever such a handsome young man looked as if he were making straight for her. She stretched her lips, showing all her teeth (they were very good) and for an instant his eyes seemed to linger . . . really to take her in, in her pretty blue dress and the corn-flowers. And then at the, last minute they ran away — and it wasn’t her at all, but a girl sitting three seats further on; one who wasn’t even pretty, or her dress either — But her own dress was beginning to get quite tashy, from the way she squeezed her hot hands down. in her lap.

Quite the worst part of all was having to go on sitting in the front row, pretending you were enjoying yourself. It was so hard to know what to do with your eyes. There was nothing but the floor for them to look at — if you watched the other couples dancing they would think you were envying them. At first she made a show of studying her programme; but you couldn’t go on staring at a programme for ever; and presently her shame at its emptiness grew till she could bear it no longer, and, seizing a moment when people were dancing, she slipped it down the front of her dress. Now she could say she’d lost it, if anyone asked to see it. But they didn’t; they went on dancing with other girls. Oh, these men, who walked round and chose just who they fancied and left who they didn’t . . . how she hated them! It wasn’t fair . . . it wasn’t fair. And when there was a “leap-year dance” where the ladies invited the gentlemen, and Auntie Cha tried to push her up and make her go and said: “Now then, Dolly, here’s your chancel” she shook her head hard and dug herself deeper into her scat. She wasn’t going to ask them when they never asked her. So she said her head ached and she’d rather not. And to this she clung, sitting the while wishing with her whole heart that her dress was black and her hair grey, like Auntie Cha’s. Nobody expected Auntie to dance, or thought it shameful19 if she didn’t: she could do and be just as she liked. Yes, to-night she wished she was old . . . an old old woman. Or that she was safe at home in bed this dreadful evening, to which she had once counted the days, behind her. Even, as the night wore on, that she was dead.

At supper she sat with Auntie and the other lady, and the son and the girl came, too. There were lovely cakes and things, but she could not eat them. Her throat was so dry that a sandwich stuck in it and nearly choked her. Perhaps the son felt a little sorry for her (or else his mother had whispered again), for afterwards he said something to the girl, and then asked HER to dance. They stood up together; but it wasn’t a success. Her legs seemed to have forgotten how to jump, heavy as lead they were . . . as heavy as she felt inside . . . and she couldn’t think of a thing to say. So now he would put her down as stupid, as well.

Her only other partner was a boy younger than she was — almost a schoolboy — who she heard them say was “making a positive nuisance of himself.” This was to a VERY pretty girl called the “belle of the ball.” And he didn’t seem to mind how badly he danced (with her), for he couldn’t take his eyes off this other girl; but went on staring at her all the time, and very fiercely, because she was talking and laughing with somebody else. Besides, he hopped20 like a grass-hopper, and didn’t wear gloves, and his hands were hot and sticky. She hadn’t come there to dance with little boys.

They left before anybody else; there was nothing to stay for. And the drive home in the wagonette, which had to be fetched, they were so early, was dreadful: Auntie Cha just sat and pressed her lips and didn’t say a word. She herself kept her face turned the other way, because her mouth was jumping, in and out as if it might have to cry.

At the sound of wheels Miss Biddons came running to the front door with questions and exclamations21, dreadfully curious to know why they were back so soon. Dolly fled to her own little room and turned the key in the lock. She wanted only to be alone, quite alone, where nobody could see her . . . where nobody would ever see her again. But the walls were thin, and as she tore off the wreath and ripped open her dress, now crushed to nothing from so much sitting, and threw them from her anywhere, anyhow, she could hear the two voices going on, Auntie Cha’s telling and telling, and winding22 up at last, quite out loud, with: “Well, I don’t know what it was, but the plain truth is. she didn’t TAKE!”

Oh, the shame of it! . . . the sting and the shame. Her first ball, and not to have “taken,” to have failed to “attract the gentlemen”— this was a slur23 that would rest on her all her life. And yet . . . and yet . . . in spite of everything, a small voice that wouldn’t be silenced kept on saying: “It wasn’t my FAULT . . . it wasn’t my fault!” (Or at least not except for the one silly mistake in the steps of the waltz.) She had tried her hardest, done everything she was told to: had dressed up to please and look pretty, sat in the front row offering her programme, smiled when she didn’t feel a bit like smiling . . . and almost more than anything she thought she hated the memory of that smile (it was like trying to make people buy something they didn’t think worth while.) For really, truly, right deep down in her, she hadn’t wanted “the gentlemen” any more than they’d wanted her: she had only had to pretend to. And they showed only too plainly they didn’t, by choosing other girls, who were not even pretty, and dancing with them, and laughing and talking and enjoying them.— And now, the many slights and humiliations of the evening crowding upon her, the long repressed tears broke through; and with the blanket pulled up over her head, her face driven deep into the pillow, she cried till she could cry no more.


1 gossamer ufQxj     
  • The prince helped the princess,who was still in her delightful gossamer gown.王子搀扶着仍穿著那套美丽薄纱晚礼服的公主。
  • Gossamer is floating in calm air.空中飘浮着游丝。
2 gratitude p6wyS     
  • I have expressed the depth of my gratitude to him.我向他表示了深切的谢意。
  • She could not help her tears of gratitude rolling down her face.她感激的泪珠禁不住沿着面颊流了下来。
3 cramped 287c2bb79385d19c466ec2df5b5ce970     
  • The house was terribly small and cramped, but the agent described it as a bijou residence. 房子十分狭小拥挤,但经纪人却把它说成是小巧别致的住宅。
  • working in cramped conditions 在拥挤的环境里工作
4 alas Rx8z1     
  • Alas!The window is broken!哎呀!窗子破了!
  • Alas,the truth is less romantic.然而,真理很少带有浪漫色彩。
5 fixed JsKzzj     
  • Have you two fixed on a date for the wedding yet?你们俩选定婚期了吗?
  • Once the aim is fixed,we should not change it arbitrarily.目标一旦确定,我们就不应该随意改变。
6 mustered 3659918c9e43f26cfb450ce83b0cbb0b     
v.集合,召集,集结(尤指部队)( muster的过去式和过去分词 );(自他人处)搜集某事物;聚集;激发
  • We mustered what support we could for the plan. 我们极尽所能为这项计划寻求支持。
  • The troops mustered on the square. 部队已在广场上集合。 来自《简明英汉词典》
7 fray NfDzp     
  • Why should you get involved in their fray?你为什么要介入他们的争吵呢?
  • Tempers began to fray in the hot weather.大热天脾气烦燥。
8 dowdy ZsdxQ     
  • She was in a dowdy blue frock.她穿了件不大洁净的蓝上衣。
  • She looked very plain and dowdy.她长得非常普通,衣也过时。
9 beckoning fcbc3f0e8d09c5f29e4c5759847d03d6     
adj.引诱人的,令人心动的v.(用头或手的动作)示意,召唤( beckon的现在分词 )
  • An even more beautiful future is beckoning us on. 一个更加美好的未来在召唤我们继续前进。 来自辞典例句
  • He saw a youth of great radiance beckoning to him. 他看见一个丰神飘逸的少年向他招手。 来自辞典例句
10 waddled c1cfb61097c12b4812327074b8bc801d     
v.(像鸭子一样)摇摇摆摆地走( waddle的过去式和过去分词 )
  • A family of ducks waddled along the river bank. 一群鸭子沿河岸摇摇摆摆地走。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • The stout old man waddled across the road. 那肥胖的老人一跩一跩地穿过马路。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
11 pointed Il8zB4     
  • He gave me a very sharp pointed pencil.他给我一支削得非常尖的铅笔。
  • She wished to show Mrs.John Dashwood by this pointed invitation to her brother.她想通过对达茨伍德夫人提出直截了当的邀请向她的哥哥表示出来。
12 standing 2hCzgo     
  • After the earthquake only a few houses were left standing.地震过后只有几幢房屋还立着。
  • They're standing out against any change in the law.他们坚决反对对法律做任何修改。
13 hip 1dOxX     
  • The thigh bone is connected to the hip bone.股骨连着髋骨。
  • The new coats blouse gracefully above the hip line.新外套在臀围线上优美地打着褶皱。
14 beckoned b70f83e57673dfe30be1c577dd8520bc     
v.(用头或手的动作)示意,召唤( beckon的过去式和过去分词 )
  • He beckoned to the waiter to bring the bill. 他招手示意服务生把账单送过来。
  • The seated figure in the corner beckoned me over. 那个坐在角落里的人向我招手让我过去。 来自《简明英汉词典》
15 persuasion wMQxR     
  • He decided to leave only after much persuasion.经过多方劝说,他才决定离开。
  • After a lot of persuasion,she agreed to go.经过多次劝说后,她同意去了。
16 lanky N9vzd     
  • He was six feet four,all lanky and leggy.他身高6英尺4英寸,瘦高个儿,大长腿。
  • Tom was a lanky boy with long skinny legs.汤姆是一个腿很细的瘦高个儿。
17 muddle d6ezF     
  • Everything in the room was in a muddle.房间里每一件东西都是乱七八糟的。
  • Don't work in a rush and get into a muddle.克服忙乱现象。
18 intervals f46c9d8b430e8c86dea610ec56b7cbef     
n.[军事]间隔( interval的名词复数 );间隔时间;[数学]区间;(戏剧、电影或音乐会的)幕间休息
  • The forecast said there would be sunny intervals and showers. 预报间晴,有阵雨。
  • Meetings take place at fortnightly intervals. 每两周开一次会。
19 shameful DzzwR     
  • It is very shameful of him to show off.他向人炫耀自己,真不害臊。
  • We must expose this shameful activity to the newspapers.我们一定要向报社揭露这一无耻行径。
20 hopped 91b136feb9c3ae690a1c2672986faa1c     
跳上[下]( hop的过去式和过去分词 ); 单足蹦跳; 齐足(或双足)跳行; 摘葎草花
  • He hopped onto a car and wanted to drive to town. 他跳上汽车想开向市区。
  • He hopped into a car and drove to town. 他跳进汽车,向市区开去。
21 exclamations aea591b1607dd0b11f1dd659bad7d827     
n.呼喊( exclamation的名词复数 );感叹;感叹语;感叹词
  • The visitors broke into exclamations of wonder when they saw the magnificent Great Wall. 看到雄伟的长城,游客们惊叹不已。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • After the will has been read out, angry exclamations aroused. 遗嘱宣读完之后,激起一片愤怒的喊声。 来自辞典例句
22 winding Ue7z09     
  • A winding lane led down towards the river.一条弯弯曲曲的小路通向河边。
  • The winding trail caused us to lose our orientation.迂回曲折的小道使我们迷失了方向。
23 slur WE2zU     
  • He took the remarks as a slur on his reputation.他把这些话当作是对他的名誉的中伤。
  • The drug made her speak with a slur.药物使她口齿不清。


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