Music Monday: Napoleonic Ball, Cotillion and Reel

“Napoleonic Ball – Regency Dances: Cotillion and Reel.” YouTube. Created for and uploaded to YouTube by Hedocurean’s Channel, 06 Dec. 2011.

I have been listening to and watching many regency dances this week as I wrote. This cotillion is the dance I was thinking of as I wrote the following scene:

From No Other Choice:

He tipped his head to the side.  “I see what you are at.”

She fluttered her eyes and smiled sweetly at him.  “I assure you I am at nothing.”

“You are angry, and so you refuse to speak to me.”

“I am sure I have not refused to speak. I believe I have answered all your questions.”  The music began, and she took his hand and curtseyed as he bowed before taking Georgiana’s hand and beginning to circle.

When she had crossed over and back toward him, he said, “But your answers have been abrupt, and you seem adverse to conversation.”

She crossed over and back to him.  “My answers were concise for I am intent upon my lesson.  Now, if you would be so kind as to allow me to concentrate on my steps and the music.”  She gave a small nod of her head as if thanking him for his compliance as they parted and came back together again.

He continued progressing through the steps in silence, his stiff muscles relaxing and the activity bringing alertness to his mind.   As he danced, he watched Mary.  Her steps were precise and soft.  Her movements graceful, and if he was not mistaken, he heard her softly humming the tune.  The joy on her face gave further evidence that she did indeed enjoy dancing while her skills told him that she had danced often. It was a delightful picture, one that brought a smile to his lips.  Soon the music slowed and came to an end.

“Much improved Miss Darcy,” said the dancing master.

“You can return in two days, can you not?” asked Lady Sophia.  “Miss Mary’s time to prepare for the season is limited.”

The gentleman inclined his head, a smile crinkled the skin around his eyes.  “I would return everyday to dance with Miss Bennet, but I have other students, so I shall have to be content to wait two days before I return.”  He gave Lord Rycroft an appraising look.  “It would do well if the ladies had an opportunity to practice once between now and our next lesson.”  He cocked his head to the side and both brows rose as he waited for Lord Rycroft to respond.

“I have business─” he began but a small cough from his mother stopped him.  “but, I am certain I can find a few moments to be of assistance.”  The instructor turned to Miss Darcy.  “Do you have the music for the dances we did today?”

“I do.”

“Then perhaps you could play for Miss Bennet and Lord Rycroft, and then Miss Bennet ─ you do play, Miss Bennet, do you not?”  He waited for her assurance that she did play before continuing.  “Then you must play for Miss Darcy and Lord Rycroft.”  He gave a sharp nod of his head indicating that the plan was good and the discussion at an end.  Then, with a quick scold to the musician to be quick, he donned his hat and coat and took up his walking stick.

“You dance so very well,” said Georgiana.  “I wish I could do as well.”

Mary put an arm around Georgiana’s shoulders.  “You will.  I have had more practice is all.”

Georgiana shook her head.  “My feet do not always follow my head.”

“That is the problem,” said Lord Rycroft.  “You must not dance in your head.”  He smiled as Mary rolled her eyes.  Finally, he had gotten a response that was not prim or proper as all her others had been today. “You do not believe me, Miss Mary?”

His tone was teasing which caused Mary to both bristle and become wary.  It would be very easy to scold and reprimand if he were allowed to tease.  So, instead of responding with an I most definitely do not, she said, “I await your explanation, sir.”  And then she gave him as sweet a smile as she could.

One of his brows rose slightly and his mouth became a displeased line instead of the tempting smile it had been.  She was definitely playing at something.  He had given her the chance to instruct  him on the need to know the dance in one’s head before it could become a learned pattern for the body, but she had not taken it.  And now, he need to explain something he was not sure he could explain.   “Well,” he began.  “The steps must first be known by the head, of course, but,” he glanced at the pianoforte and remembered how Georgiana seemed to flow along the keys with the music, “but it is the heart which must be engaged with the music, as it is when you play.  Do you count the notes and timing?”

She shook her head.  “I did at first but no longer.”

“Ah.”  He smiled as he saw Mary’s eyes narrow.  He was certain she had hoped he would not have an explanation.  “If you do not count, how is it that you can play as it is written?”

A smile spread across Georgiana’s face.  “My heart and body feel it.”

“Just so.”  He tapped her on the nose.  “Would you agree, Miss Mary?”  Her eyes narrowed just a bit more, and he smiled just a bit more broadly.

“I would.”  She moved toward the instrument.  “However, sometimes, fingers and feet do not learn at the same rate.  One may require more practice than the other.”  She took up a piece of music which lay on a bench near the pianoforte.  “If you will excuse me,”  she looked at him and then toward the door, “my fingers do not learn as readily as my feet.”

Instead of leaving as she had clearly signaled she wanted him to do, he pulled a chair close to where she took her seat at the instrument.  “You may require assistance with the pages, ” he explained when she looked up at him with brows drawn close  in question.

Her shoulders drooped a bit as she sighed.  Avoiding Lord Rycroft was becoming a challenge. “I would not wish to keep you from your business.”

He waved the idea way.  “My business can wait.  I have worked at it all morning and desire some time away from it.”

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Leenie Brown

Leenie Brown fell in love with Jane Austen's works when she first read Sense and Sensibility followed immediately by Pride and Prejudice in her early teens. As the second of five daughters and an avid reader, she has always loved to see where her imagination takes her and to play with and write about the characters she meets along the way. In 2013, these two loves collided when she stumbled upon the world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction. A year later, in 2014, she began writing her own Austen-inspired stories and began publishing them in 2015. Leenie lives in Nova Scotia, Canada with her two teenage boys and her very own Mr. Brown (a wonderful mix of all the best of Darcy, Bingley and Edmund with healthy dose of the teasing Mr. Tillney and just a dash of the scolding Mr. Knightley).

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