The daughter of a dance hostess has her own special duties to the girls present. She should spare time from her own enjoyment to find partners for others and to introduce the male guests who wish to dance. This involves considerable self-denial to those who like to join in every dance, as do most girls. There is something delightful about waltzing with a good partner. The rhythm of the movement, the music, and the joy of life melt into each other and form a kind of enchantment. But, though it is kind and unselfish to give up a few dances, it Would be very bad manners to neglect the claims of hospitality. I have known girls give up a favourite partner to a girl who was not attractive enough to be sought out. What the partner felt was probably expressed later on.
The historic lady who, on being invited to waltz, replied that "she couldn't dance, but she thought she'd like to try," could scarcely be worse than some of the girls one sees, who tread on their partners' toes, knock them on the knees, cannot keep time, and are very heavy in hand. No mother should send her girl to a dance without having previously equipped her by suitable courses of lessons from good teachers.
There are men, too, who dance very badly, but a girl must not refuse them by giving that as a reason. It is a great rudeness to refuse one man for a dance, and then accept another without having been previously engaged to him for it.
On the other hand, if the girl, unwilling to dance with him, pleads a previous engagement, she feels very awkward if no one turns up with whom she can quietly carry out the fiction. It is one of the many cases in which inclination has to be sacrificed to good manners.
When Carlyle was first received into English society this struck him more than anything else. He described it as the "amiable stoicism" of the upper class. In his own state of life by birth people followed their own inclinations without regarding the feelings of others, with the few exceptions of "nature's gentlefolk," whose kindly instinct inspires the well-mannered act or word.
Sometimes a man does not turn up in good time for a dance, and the girl who is engaged to him for it grows impatient, But, however anxious she may be to begin it, she should not go and look for him. There are girls who do so, but they are not well bred. Had they been better taught they would know that they could only do such a thing with loss to their own dignity. Besides, they may find the man sitting out very comfortably with someone else and most unwilling to move. Here is a situation that cannot fail to humiliate the girl who comes upon the scene as a disturbing and unwanted third. She sees his reluctance, however carefully he may endeavour to hide it, and she also notices the annoyed look of the other girl, perhaps less studiously concealed.
Sitting-out is a test of a girl's good breeding. It is quite allowable to sit on the stairs between the dances, but it is as well to go no higher than those flights which.are patronised by other couples. An Englishwoman who gave a dance is reported to have said, " Five couples on the first-floor staircase, eight on the second-floor, and one on the top step of the servants' attic. She shall never be asked here again!"
It is in bad form to choose an elevated position in comparative isolation for the interesting amusement of sitting-out. It does not do for a girl to acquire the reputation of being "fast." She may not mind at first, but some day it may wreck her dearest hopes.
At the boy and girl dances that are a modern institution there are no chaperons, the hostess being supposed to act in that capacity to all the girls she has invited. But it is not every hostess who realises her responsibilities, and there may be awkward moments for the chaperonless girl. Suppose that no partner asks her for the supper dance, and when it is over she is left sitting alone in the drawing-room, overlooked by her hostess! It is upon such occasions as these that a girl misses a chaperon.
The "duty" dance is that for which every male guest is bound to ask the daughter or daughters of his hostess, and his hostess herself, if her dancing days are not over. The girls who have their own ideas as to the partners they prefer - and what girl has not? - will make haste to fill their programmes in good time, so that a legitimate excuse may be ready, if not desired by them, for some of these perfunctory requests.