The figure is just a silhouette against the yellow ochre light that comes from the gas lamps which, he knows, line the room as they do any 0ld-fashioned parlour or ballroom, if they have not yet got around to electric light. But the traveller is intrigued by how she bends, and rises, and bends, and rises, as though this mindless and seemingly futile exercise is what her life depends upon. He continues to watch. What is she doing?
"Hullo?" he says, knocking gently at the door and peering around, for of course it is ajar. "Hullo?" Nobody answers him, and for the first time he becomes conscious of the music which flows around the solitary figure. An old battered piano in the corner, played not by a decrepit old woman as was so popular then, but by a smart young man in a suit and tie, although he frowns at the music on the stand as though he as never seen it before. This, in fact, was entirely true.
Abruptly, the music stops, and the figure straightens up. She steps forward towards the traveller and at last he sees the reason for her stretching. She is dressed in the clothes of a ballet dancer, a practice tutu and tights with holes in them, shoes that are worn out and leg warmers that the moths have been at. The pianist flexes his fingers, more from fatigue than to threaten the errant traveller.
"What are you doing here?" asks the dancer sharply, staring at this man who dares to interrupt her practice. The pianist--to whom she is, in fact, engaged to be married, and has agreed to play for her just for today while she practices for next week's recital, since the normal pianist cannot make it--stands up, as though to make their visit even more uncomfortable.
"I saw you from the street. It was ... beautiful." As soon as the words left his mouth, the traveller wondered where they had come from, because that certainly hadn't been what he was intending to say.
"No," she replied. "It was pain. But pain, in time, can make beauty." And she pushed him out into the street, closed the door, resumed her practice ... leaving him to wonder at the meaning of her words.