Father's blue eyes twinkled; he had been saving the best for last. He said to Laura's mother, "Hey, Caroline! There'll be a dance!"
Her mother smiled. She looked very happy and she laid down her mending for a minute. "Oh, Charles!" she said.
Then she went on with her mending, but she kept on smiling. She said, "I'll wear my delaine dress." Delaine is a type of high quality wool from Merino sheep. Their mother's delaine dress was beautiful. It was a dark green, with a little pattern all over it that looked like ripe strawberries. A dressmaker had made it, in the East, in the place where Mother came from when she married Father and moved out west to the forest in Wisconsin. Mother had been very fashionable, before she married father and a dressmaker had made her clothes.
The delaine dress was kept wrapped in paper and laid away. Laura and Mary had never seen Mother wear it, but she had shown it to them once. She had let them touch the beautiful dark red buttons that buttoned the basque up the front. Today people do not often wear a basque, but when Laura was young it was a very tightly fitting bra-jacket that went past the waistline and over the hips. Then she had shown them how neatly the small thin whalebones were sewn inside, with hundreds of little stitches crossing the whalebone and going back again.
It showed how important a dance was, if their mother was going to wear the beautiful delaine dress. Laura and Mary were excited. They jumped up and down, while sitting on their father's knees and asked questions about the dance until at last he said:
"Now you girls go to bed! You'll know all about the dance when you see it. I'll have to put a new string on my fiddle." A fiddle is another word for a violin - especially when played in a folk style.
There were sticky fingers and sweet mouths to be washed. Then there were prayers to be said. When Laura and Mary were snug and comfortable in their bed, their father played the fiddle and sang, while he tapped his foot on the floor along with the music: