I found this painting by Thomas Wilmer Dewing on Wikimedia Commons, and beyond the pretty effect of the hazy grass and the fairy-like girls fading into it, I was intrigued to know the story behind it. I don’t know what it is, so I wrote one.
The woman pushed Flora roughly to the ground in a rustle of silk. Her arrogant gaze didn’t falter. Flora bowed her head in confusion. The master’s daughter was not used to this kind of treatment.
“I want to go,” she said finally, aware of the tremble in her voice, fearing it sounded petulant. “I want to see the dancing.”
“You want to see young Derby, more like.” The woman sneered slightly.
“Mr Derby to you!”
The automatic reaction only made the woman laugh aloud.
“Want to see the dancing?”
“It’s midsummer. Why shouldn’t I?
“Because it’s not for you. No more’n the kind of dancing young Derby does with the farm girls is for you.”
Flora felt the blood drain from her face. “Mr Derby—”
“He’s had every one of them. Three o’ them’s carrying his bairn.” The woman’s tone changed, softened. She jerked her chin in the direction of the girls, disappearing into the evening mists. “Leave ’em be. Leave ’em to their dancing. While they can.”
In the distance, beyond the hazel copse, Flora could see the bright flames of the midsummer fire. The dancing girls had gone, but she thought she heard the bright sound of laughter in the breeze. The mist thickened. Dusk crept across the meadow. The woman dropped a bouquet of hedge parsley into Flora’s lap and followed in the tracks of the farm girls. Flora watched until night fell, and the sky filled with up-flying sparks, then she turned for home.