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Felicity’s Dancing Shoes is part of the Short Stories collections, focusing on Felicity Merriman.


Only in Felicity's Dancing Shoes

Story Summary

Felicity runs up the stairs to Miss Manderly's house on a wet day. She shakes the water off her skirts before she goes into the parlor and sits next to Elizabeth. Annabelle exclaims that Felicity looks as if she came in a hurricane. She then touches her perfect curls and says she's glad her hair doesn't look like a scrub mop. Felicity says, "My hair is just a bit wet," as she straightens herself out. Felicity is annoyed that Annabelle finds something to criticize her about every day. Elizabeth whispers that she shouldn't let Annabelle Bananabelle get to her. She squeezes Felicity's hand to comfort her, but Felicity is still angry.

Miss Manderly tells the girls they will begin their day with a dancing lesson; Elizabeth will be Miss Manderly's partner, and Felicity and Annabelle will be partners. Felicity sighs and Elizabeth gives her a look of understanding. Although Felicity dislikes dancing with Annabelle, she knows she's not a good dancer with anyone. She struggles to remember the steps to each dance, and Annabelle frequently criticizes her. Nonetheless, she takes her place by Annabelle and watches Miss Manderly's demonstration. Although Felicity tried to copy Miss Manderly, her feet keep wandering in the wrong directions. Annabelle is also an unhelpful partner; the two of them keep moving in opposite directions, with Annabelle stepping forward while Felicity steps back. Annabelle tries hissing directions to no avail. Felicity continues to make mistakes, until finally, she loses her balance and fells into Annabelle. Her nose hits Annabelle's shoulder and her foot lands on Annabelle's toe.

Annabelle screeches in pain and calls Felicity clumsy as she hobbles into a chair and moans. Felicity apologizes, but Annabelle says it's no wonder her toe got hurt, as Felicity always wears "those dreadful shoes." Everyone looks at Felicity's feet. Although Felicity normally never gives her shoes a thought, she feels ashamed as she looks at them. Her everyday shoes were scuffed, ugly, and big. The Cole sisters always wear dainty shoes. Annabelle says Felicity must not have any "proper shoes." Then Miss Manderly intervenes and tells Annabelle it's enough. She says, "'Tis no matter how clumsy one's shoes are. Gracefulness is in the foot, not the shoe." Annabelle smirks at Felicity because Miss Manderly called her shoes "clumsy."

Felicity is furious and thinks to herself that she'll find dainty shoes somehow. She'll show Annabelle, and she won't embarrass Felicity again.

When Felicity returns home, Nan is waiting for her, as usual. Nan always asks about Felicity's dancing lessons and loves dancing as much as Felicity hates it. Felicity pulls on her apron and her voice is dull when she tells Nan that she did learn a new dance. When Nan begs to learn the dance herself, Felicity smiles and agrees if she can have a favor in return. She will teach Nan all the dances if she can borrow Nan's brocade shoes for lessons. Nan tilts her head and asks if these are the same kind of shoes that Felicity had until she ruined them. Of course Nan would remember that, Felicity thinks. She quickly promises not to ruin Nan's shoes. Nan remains cautious until Felicity casually comments that if Nan doesn't want to learn the dances, she doesn't need to lend her the shoes. Nan insists that she does want to learn, so she fetches the shoes from the clothes press for her sister. Nan wonders if the shoes will be too small, but Felicity insists they won't be. Although the shoes are narrow and too short, Felicity squeezes hard and claims they fit perfectly. However, she decides not to wear them outside of Miss Manderly's, so she takes the shoes off while she teaches Nan.

The next afternoon, Felicity carries Nan's shoes in a cloth bag. The sisters had agreed not to tell Mother about their arrangement because she wouldn't approve of it. Before entering the house, Felicity slips into the garden shed, hides her heavy shoes in the bag and under some unused gardening tools, and she puts on Nan's brocade shoes. Although she hears a ripping noise from the brocade, Felicity manages to get the shoes on and walks proudly into the house. Elizabeth comments on how pretty they are, but Annabelle merely snorts. Felicity feels some satisfaction that Annabelle can't find anything to criticize.

When sitting, Felicity's feet tingled as if poked with pins and needles, but when dancing, the shoes pinch her toes badly. She tries to ingore the pain, and she is much more careful during their dancing and makes far fewer mistakes. Miss Manderly smiles. As Elizabeth curtsies, she softly tells Felicity that the shoes are magic because they make such a difference in her dancing. Felicity agrees, and after her lesson she goes to the garden shed to swap out her shoes. She leaves the brocade shoes in the bag under the gardening tools. Before putting on her regular shoes, she rubs her cramped feet. Her regular shoes now feel very large to her, and Felicity thinks to herself that no one could dance gracefully in them.

A few weeks later, Miss Manderly compliments Felicity and tells her that her dancing has improved. Felicity and Elizabeth exchange a smile because they both know the shoes have improved her dancing. Annabelle has even stopped making mean comments. However, it feels like Nan's shoes get smaller every day because they hurt her feet so much. Whenever Felicity thinks about wearing her everyday shoes, she remembers Annabelle's mean comments and chooses painful feet over her hurt pride.

Nan also won't let Felicity forget her promise to teach her dancing, and she waits for her sister every day after lessons. Felicity would show her the lesson step by step, but Nan was fussy and wanted to know every detail. In order to teach Nan correctly, Felicity had to memorize every one of Miss Manderly's movements. Nan could tell whenever Felicity forgot a step and just made something up. She is very careful and she makes Felicity go over the dance until every detail is right. Felicity dances with Nan in her stocking feet, and she starts to feel that dancing was almost fun with Nan.

One afternoon, Miss Manderly teaches the girls a particularly long and complicated dance. Felicity limps to the garden shed and looks for the basket containing her shoes, but to her surprise, the basket was gone. She searches through the entire shed to no avail, so she rushes outside and looks behind bushes and trees. Mother will be furious if she has lost her shoes, and Felicity knows she can't wear the painful brocade shoes all the time. Felicity is on her hands and knees, searching below a garden bench, when Miss Manderly calls to her from the window and asks what she's doing. Felicity asks about the basket with gardening tools, and Miss Manderly says the gardener, Mr. Halibut, probably stopped by to pick up the tools and clean them before the winter. Felicity jumps up and asks where he went. Miss Manderly is still confused, but she tells Felicity he also gardens for the Milners on Francis Street. Felicity thanks her and takes off with a run- until the pain in her feet remind her that she was still wearing Nan's shoes. Running hurt even more than dancing and she could feel a blister on her heel, so she tugs off the shoes, puts them in her pockets, and runs on the cold, muddy ground.

Felicity could run faster in her stocking feet, and she runs until she reaches Francis Street. She runs around the back of the Milners' house to see Mr. Halibut leaving with the garden basket in tow. Flustered, Felicity asks him for the bag with her shoes, though it takes a few tries to communicate this. Mr. Halibut is surprised but silently holds out the basket. She takes the bag, thanks him, and heads home. At this point, her stockings were so wet and dirty that she could not put her shoes on. Her feet are bruised and cold, but she heads home.

The next day, Felicity heads to lessons with only her old shoes. When she'd returned home with her ruined stockings, she had to confess the story to Mother. Mrs. Merriman is firm and tells her she can't borrow Nan's shoes again. Felicity is discouraged as she walks to class because she knows her dancing will become bad again. She'll be clumsy, and Annabelle will gleefully criticize every mistake.

Before the lesson even begins, Annabelle makes a rude comment about her shoes and says they had all better watch out for their toes. Felicity's not surprised, but everyone is surprised when the lesson began. Felicity was graceful and light on her feet, and she didn't make a single mistake. Elizabeth whispers delightedly that Felicity is dancing so well, and the magic wasn't in the new shoes after all. Felicity laughs as she realizes the true magic she was practicing dancing every day with Nan. Her dancing improved from practice, not the shoes, and she had suffered in pain for no reason. She happily tells Elizabeth, "After all, gracefulness is in the foot, not the shoe," echoing Miss Manderly's earlier words.

Meet The Author

Valerie talks about how she was taller than the boys in her dancing class and usually danced with the teacher. "But at least he was the best dancer in the class!"

Looking Back: Education in 1774

Discusses a girl's education during colonial times. Topics include:

  • What girls were taught from their mothers.
  • The things teachers taught their students, from stitchery to playing musical instruments.
  • How important dancing was in the southern colonies.
  • When a girl began dancing, and how many lessons she would have per week.
  • The importance, and strictness, of dance masters in the south.
  • What a girl would do during a ball and what a ball began with.
  • The minuet, the most importance dance of all, and how it was performed.
  • Circle dances that were performed and how long they would last.
  • The northern colonies' view on dancing.

Activity: Try Colonial Square Dancing

There are steps on how to dance the minuet, a dance common in Felicity's time, and how to do some country line dancing.