"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

04 July 2014

"That's what a lady does."

I have discovered Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries on PBS and, despite the lead character's amorality, I love the show.  It takes place in Australia in, I believe, the 1920s.  The lead character is Phryne (pronounced Fry-nee) Fisher, an elegant, wealthy young woman who, among other good deeds, tries to help young street girls to better lives; she has taken Dot on as a lady's maid and has adopted Jane.  And, of course, she is an amateur detective who helps Inspector Jack Robinson to solve murders.  In last night's episode, she is teaching several such girls social graces.  One of them doesn't show to dinner, and they find her on the beach, drowned.  The mystery is rather complex and brilliantly solved by the combined efforts of Phryne and Jack, but another aspect is how the murder changes Phryne's teaching of the girls.

Here is the scene from which the title quote comes:  a day or two after the murder, the girls have gathered to practice dancing.  They are dressed nicely and, scattered about the room as they wait for Phryne, they are trying out graceful dance movements.  Phryne sweeps in wearing an elegant skirt set, looks about, and says, "Gather 'round, girls.  We're doing something different today."  She then demonstrates and sets to teaching them judo moves -- because self-defense will be far more practical for them than the fox-trot.

They are well into it when Inspector Robinson enters.  He seats himself near the door and observes with interest.  When his Detective Constable murmurs, "Miss Fisher knows judo, sir?" with some amazement, Jack merely replies, "Of course she does" -- he is beyond being surprised by her.

One of the girls finally sees the two men and alerts Phryne.  She turns, arches her eyebrows, and waits for Jack to speak.

Jack, deadpan:  "I hope you're not concealing a dangerous weapon under that skirt."

Phryne, archly:  "I'm concealing a lot of things.  That's what a lady does."

Ladies, let's be ladies!