[center]The Dancing Partner
by Jerome K. Jerome
"This story," commenced MacShaugnassy, "comes from Furtwangen, a small town
in the Black Forest. There lived there a very wonderful old fellow named
Nicholaus Geibel. His business was the making of mechanical toys, at which
work he had acquired an almost European reputation. He made rabbits that
would emerge from the heart of a cabbage, flop their ears, smooth their
whiskers, and disappear again; cats that would wash their faces, and mew so
naturally that dogs would mistake them for real cats and fly at them; dolls
with phonographs concealed within them, that would raise their hats and say,
'Good morning; how do you do?' and some that would even sing a song.
"But, he was something more than a mere mechanic; he was an artist. His work
was with him a hobby, almost a passion. His shop was filled with all manner
of strange things that never would, or could, be sold -- things he had made
for the pure love of making them. He had contrived a mechanical donkey that
would trot for two hours by means of stored electricity, and trot, too, much
faster than the live article, and with less need for exertion on the part of
the driver, a bird that would shoot up into the air, fly round and round in
a circle, and drop to earth at the exact spot from where it started; a
skeleton that, supported by an upright iron bar, would dance a hornpipe, a
life-size lady doll that could play the fiddle, and a gentleman with a
hollow inside who could smoke a pipe and drink more lager beer than any
three average German students put together, which is saying much.
"Indeed, it was the belief of the town that old Geibel could make a man
capable of doing everything that a respectable man need want to do. One day
he made a man who did too much, and it came about in this way:
"Young Doctor Follen had a baby, and the baby had a birthday. Its first
birthday put Doctor Follen's household into somewhat of a flurry, but on the
occasion of its second birthday, Mrs. Doctor Follen gave a ball in honour of
the event. Old Geibel and his daughter Olga were among the guests.
"During the afternoon of the next day some three or four of Olga's bosom
friends, who had also been present at the ball, dropped in to have a chat
about it. They naturally fell to discussing the men, and to criticizing
their dancing. Old Geibel was in the room, but he appeared to be absorbed in
his newspaper, and the girls took no notice of him.
"'There seem to be fewer men who can dance at every ball you go to,' said
one of the girls.
"'Yes, and don't the ones who can give themselves airs,' said another; 'they
make quite a favor of asking you.'
"'And how stupidly they talk,' added a third. 'They always say exactly the
same things: "How charming you are looking to-night." "Do you often go to
Vienna? Oh, you should, it's delightful." "What a charming dress you have
on." "What a warm day it has been." "Do you like Wagner?" I do wish they'd
think of something new.'
"'Oh, I never mind how they talk,' said a forth. 'If a man dances well he
may be a fool for all I care.'