There were some really beautiful dresses of rich old brocade, and some gleaming old shawls, a shimmer of[Pg 247] lavender and silver, or of dark, rich shot colours with deep borders of white silver and primrose gold, very lovely. I believe two of them were actual women—but the q-b says no. There was a Victorian gown of thick green silk, with a creamy blotched cross-over shawl. About her we both were doubtful. There were two wistful, drooping-lily sisters, all in white, with big feet. And there was a very successful tall miss in a narrow hobble-skirt of black satin and a toque with ospreys. The way she minced and wagged her posterior and went on her toes and peered over her shoulder and kept her elbows in was an admirable caricature. Especially the curious sagging heaving movement of “bustle” region, a movement very characteristic of modern feminism, was hit off with a bit of male exaggeration which rejoiced me. At first she even took me in.
We stood outside our window, and leaned on the little balcony rail looking down at this flow of life. Directly opposite was the chemist’s house: facing our window the best bedroom of the chemist, with a huge white matrimonial bed and muslin curtains. In the balcony sat the chemist’s daughters, very elegant in high-heeled shoes and black hair done in the fluffy fashion with a big sweep sideways. Oh very elegant![Pg 248] They eyed us a little and we eyed them. But without interest. The river of life was down below.
It was very cold and the day was declining. We too were cold. We decided to go into the street and look for the café. In a moment we were out of doors, walking as inconspicuously as possible near the wall. Of course there was no pavement. These maskers were very gentle and whimsical, no touch of brutality at all. Now we were level with them, how odd and funny they were. One youth wore a thin white blouse and a pair of his sister’s wide, calico knickers with needlework frills near the ankle, and white stockings. He walked artlessly, and looked almost pretty. Only the q-b winced with pain: not because of the knickers, but because of that awful length, coming well below the knee. Another young man was wound into a sheet, and heavens knows if he could ever get out of it. Another was involved in a complicated entanglement of white crochet antimacassars, very troublesome to contemplate. I did not like him at all, like a fish in a net. But he strode robustly about.
We came to the end of the street, where there is a wide, desolate sort of gap. Here the little band stood braying away, there was a thick crowd of people, and on a slanting place just above, a little circle where[Pg 249] youths and men, maskers and one or two girls were dancing, so crowded together and such a small ring that they looked like a jiggly set of upright rollers all turning rickettily against one another. They were doing a sort of intense jigging waltz. Why do they look so intense? Perhaps because they were so tight all together, like too many fish in a globe slipping through one another.Share It