So I agreed. I didn't know what else to do--but I could tell this was an honour, and I wasn't about to let the opportunity pass me by. I'd never thought about whether Grace would agree or whether Alexander would let me, so when I went home to break the news I was in for a bit of a shock.
"I've been asked to do a solo in the dance show," I said, beaming. Straight away they started firing questions, bunching up the words and shooting them at me so that they hit all in one lump. Where is the show? Who is going to be in it? Who will be in the audience? Is it 'appropriate'? Will it be a respectable affair? What will you be wearing? How old are the other dancers?
I tried to answer as best I could, but I didn't know everything about it and so could only make evasive comments for the most part. Finally, I suggested that they ask Madame Lejeune herself, and that way they could be sure of having all of the information. But I got the impression they weren't as overjoyed as I'd expected.
A conversation with my teacher seemed to settle my foster parents' nerves, and I was in the show, which meant three-hour long rehearsals on top of a one-hour class, so I was usually at the studio from nine in the morning until one o'clock, when I would retire back to the house to eat. In the afternoons Miss Stroud came, although I was so exhausted I could hardly concentrate. The two hours of stretches and exercises and standing at the barre ... then the two hours of choreography and studies ...
"You must be very proud of her," said Miss Stroud to Grace one afternoon, when my mother came to check on my progress with History. I'm afraid to say that that particular subject had gone from being my best subject to one of my worst, yet I kept going as I knew that if ever I got home, I'd have a few interesting things to say about Victorian life.
"Well, I suppose," she said, unconvinced. "It's never been my idea of the best life for a girl and I am slightly worried about her doing this. I mean, those tutus they wear are rather revealing and you can see their legs." I gulped in surprise, almost choking on the tea that I was forcing myself to drink. She thought a high-fronted tutu was revealing?
"Madame Lejeune has said she will put me en pointe next week," I contributed, hoping that this snippet of information would move the conversation away from dangerous subjects like clothing and costumes. "She says although it's early my feet are ready and because I'm older it won't deform my bones."
"I'm glad to hear it," said Miss Stroud flatly. "Now come on, Elizabeth, we have plenty to do here. Have you finished with those sums I set you yesterday?" Dutifully I handed her the slate. Examining it, she looked up with a smile and said, "Good, these are correct. Well done."
"I'm glad to hear you're working hard," said Grace, and left the room. Somehow I got the feeling she was disappointed in me, and yet I couldn't say why. Looking at my governess, I saw that she didn't have a clue either. And under the table my feet were folded neatly into fifth position, my hands, resting on my knees, were running through the steps of my new dance.
I wondered what Grace would say if she knew I wasn't going to be wearing a tutu.