HomeCharles DickensThe Battle of Life

The Battle of Life. Charles Dickens

They were very glad to please them, but they danced to please themselves (or at least you would have supposed so); and you could no more help admiring, than they could help dancing. How they did dance!

Not like opera-dancers. Not at all. And not like Madame Anybody′s finished pupils. Not the least. It was not quadrille dancing, nor minuet dancing, nor even country-dance dancing. It was neither in the old style, nor the new style, nor the French style, nor the English style: though it may have been, by accident, a trifle in the Spanish style, which is a free and joyous one, I am told, deriving a delightful air of off-hand inspiration, from the chirping little castanets. As they danced among the orchard trees, and down the groves of stems and back again, and twirled each other lightly round and round, the influence of their airy motion seemed to spread and spread, in the sun-lighted scene, like an expanding circle in the water. Their streaming hair and fluttering skirts, the elastic grass beneath their feet, the boughs that rustled in the morning air - the flashing leaves, the speckled shadows on the soft green ground - the balmy wind that swept along the landscape, glad to turn the distant windmill, cheerily - everything between the two girls, and the man and team at plough upon the ridge of land, where they showed against the sky as if they were the last things in the world - seemed dancing too.

At last, the younger of the dancing sisters, out of breath, and laughing gaily, threw herself upon a bench to rest. The other leaned against a tree hard by. The music, a wandering harp and fiddle, left off with a flourish, as if it boasted of its freshness; though the truth is, it had gone at such a pace, and worked itself to such a pitch of competition with the dancing, that it never could have held on, half a minute longer. The apple- pickers on the ladders raised a hum and murmur of applause, and then, in keeping with the sound, bestirred themselves to work again like bees.

The more actively, perhaps, because an elderly gentleman, who was no other than Doctor Jeddler himself - it was Doctor Jeddler′s house and orchard, you should know, and these were Doctor Jeddler′s daughters - came bustling out to see what was the matter, and who the deuce played music on his property, before breakfast. For he was a great philosopher, Doctor Jeddler, and not very musical.

′Music and dancing TO-DAY!′ said the Doctor, stopping short, and speaking to himself. ′I thought they dreaded to-day. But it′s a world of contradictions. Why, Grace, why, Marion!′ he added, aloud, ′is the world more mad than usual this morning?′

′Make some allowance for it, father, if it be,′ replied his younger daughter, Marion, going close to him, and looking into his face, ′for it′s somebody′s birth-day.′

′Somebody′s birth-day, Puss!′ replied the Doctor. ′Don′t you know it′s always somebody′s birth-day? Did you never hear how many new performers enter on this - ha! ha! ha! - it′s impossible to speak gravely of it - on this preposterous and ridiculous business called Life, every minute?′

′No, father!′

′No, not you, of course; you′re a woman - almost,′ said the Doctor. ′By-the-by,′ and he looked into the pretty face, still close to his, ′I suppose it′s YOUR birth-day.′

′No! Do you really, father?′ cried his pet daughter, pursing up her red lips to be kissed.

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