The Rucked Top of a Hyacinth Dress



THE DANCING-MISTRESS by Elizabeth Bowen

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“…just let it roll – I do – it finds its own place.”

…as it has just now, a story somehow forgotten, now remembered as if inevitably melting out of an endless future, again and again one of my favourite stories.

“The five positions: they performed like compasses. First … second … third … fourth … fifth! For each a chord, a shock of sound tingling out into silence. The dancing-mistress kept them in the fifth position and melted down between the lines to look.”

Much melting interstitially including a man’s ambition: “Oh well, he won’t melt any glaciers!’ Note the italics. Note later his name and “his dark-ivory forehead”. “Poor Lulu was also distressingly beautiful;”

The story of another trio of characters as in Mysterious Kôr, two women (the eponymous mistress and her pianist who try to make room for each other’s heads and hands) but this time the man is called Lulu not Arthur. And you may infer what you like from that, this day and age you are reading it. Then, it was late November, with fog or a smoky mist when the light needed it, near unto a cliff, and many little girls come for their lesson, with much tactile dress-stuff, changing into dancing and silkiness for legs, including the rucked top of a woman’s hyacinth dress. 

The women go home together on the train, so Lulu has to take them both to a meal as he has his eye on the mistress. Sleepiness and other nuances mean it’s an anti-climax for him, but that is no spoiler as nothing can spoil Bowen, because I could be wrong about what happens. The emotions and the girls dancing, one girl as if in a rat trap and, and with the thump  of another girl’s heart that leads to black bubbles in the throat, a girl that one of the women literally  thinks she wants to kill. A clear tantrum and a nuance, together! 

*

“You and I, you and she, she and I, we’ll forget each other anyhow – that’s nature.”

A story that crepitates with the nuance of Autumn light and crepuscular sounds and glinting materials and limbs. And emotions that roll with it. If the head fits, wear it.

“As Jean Jones had thought, she was not like a person at all.”

But into whom did this barely noticeable Jean Jones grow up? The captivating mystery of this gorgeous endlessness of an Autumn, nearly Winter, story. Instructed about our physical motions, head fitted over text, but left to our own freewheeling emotions.

“…she melted into the floor. She flowed down into it.”

***

My ongoing reviews of all Bowen stories: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/my-huge-bowen-story-review-2/

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