This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Home Book Of Etiquette" book.
The former fashion of saying, " May I have the pleasure of dancing with you?" has now given place to a less formal method, and a young man may accost a young lady with, " I hope you have kept a dance for me," "Won't you spare me a dance?" or " Shall we take a turn ? " A young lady does not answer, " I shall be very happy," a reply which has disappeared with " May I have the pleasure?" but may say, "I am afraid I have none to spare except number ten, a quadrille," or " I am engaged for the next five dances; but I'll give you one, if you come for it a little later," or something similarly appropriate.
Another form of invitation is, " Are you engaged for this dance?" An unsophisticated girl may answer by saying, " I do not think I am," while perfectly aware that she is not, and the young men are quick to see through the evasion by which the maiden seeks to conceal her lack of partners. A clever girl will escape from the dilemma by such an answer, as " I am glad to say I am not," thus inferring that she might have been engaged had she desired, but preferred waiting for the chance of dancing with him--a suggestion flattering to the gentleman.
Ball-room small talk is not expected to rise above the common-place--the band, the flowers, the floor, the supper. Dull people usually ring the changes on these themes. For instance, " How well the band plays ! " " What a pleasant ball-room this is ! " " Don't you think the floor slippery ! " " How warm it is growing ! ", etc., etc. Such phrases, by incessant repetition, grow wearisome, and those who can master any more novel phrases should make an earnest effort to vary the monotony. Nothing very serious or profound is in place, but almost any one can escape from such trite subjects as these.