With Celeste's help Jenny dressed for the dance, feeling somehow as though her hands and feet did not belong to her. She actually stumbled once, going with Oliver along the magic bridge of boats on the dark water and up the gangway to the blaze of light on the Hirondelle. There were tree-ferns and wattle branches hiding the gun-carriages; streamers of pink-and-crimson ribbons looped into canopies, and maids down in the cabin with pins. De Joyeuse had insisted on plenty of pins, knowing how the ladies would see themselves everywhere in the three hundred little mirrors set along the tarpaulin walls. De Joyeuse would barter the mirrors for copra later on in the islands, but they made a gorgeous pageant of the decks now, reflecting to infinity the uniforms and bright dresses. They caught Jenny at every angle, showing her up—oh, cruel of them!—as rather pale and lost-looking and very slender. Men, seeing so many Jennys, felt that they were all too pale.
The band had fifes and drums, cymbals and clarinets. It played sweet and unfamiliar French music, and even the wattle scent seemed unfamiliar to Jenny to-night … I am dying with the sweetness and the music, she thought, dancing and promenading with one partner after another…. There were nooks with two chairs each, discreet up on the boat-deck; but Jenny knew she must occupy one with Mr. Paige only, while for Lydia page 199and Maria there would be no nooks at all…. I am dying with the sweetness, she thought, not knowing that she was already beginning to die of Mr. Paige. For she had been so thoroughly trained that she must not know anything, except what her elders had already masticated for her after the fashion of the pelican with its young.
If only I were a man and could go off as Raleigh and the other adventurers went, she thought…. This little shore town with its red and green gleams on Battery Point was adventure's very own spirit. Riding-lights from rusty whalers in the bay, from the swift and slender wool-clippers were all adventure, and so were those dim taverns scattered along the beach. There were sailors in those taverns: far-eyed rollicking men, voyaging to distant lands. There would be whalers, and what had they not seen and done? There would be soldiers, bearded, hot, inscrutable, with wild memories behind them of India and the Crimea.
And here she was with fan and bouquet, smiling at compliments; while all the time at the foot of Hunter Street was a glow, a yellow jovial glow from the Steam Packet Inn. Every one knew that the sailors still smuggled barrels of rum ashore up the creek behind the inn.
"It would be very nice," said Jenny wistfully to her partner, "to be a smuggler."
"My dance, I think," said Mr. Paige behind her. He solemnly offered a black sleeve and a white-gloved hand. Jenny as solemnly placed her hand on the sleeve and was led away to the boat-deck. There was not any use, it seemed, in wishing to be a smuggler.