(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story opens with a quotation from the Old Testament that associates dance with happiness: “O virgin of Israel, thou shalt . . . go forth in the dances of them that make merry. . . . Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance.” (Jer. 31:4,13).

The legend itself takes place after the Christianization of Europe. The young girl Musa is a born dancer who dances on all occasions, with others and by herself. One day, as she is dancing alone in the sanctuary, a man wearing a royal purple gown and a gold crown appears and dances with her to music provided by small cherubs. He is David, the messenger of the Virgin.

Because more dancers are wanted in Heaven, David has come to ask Musa to spend eternity in a never-ending, joyous dance. The dancing in Heaven, he assures her, is vastly superior to that on Earth. One condition imposed on the invitation gives Musa pause: She must renounce the dance and all worldly pleasures for the rest of her time on Earth. Only when David begins playing an exceptionally sweet dance does Musa acquiesce, recognizing that her earthly body is too cumbersome for such a melody.

Musa then has her ankles chained and wastes away in a hermit’s cell, living as a penitent and a recluse. Many come for advice and prayers, and a touch from Musa makes awkward girls graceful. After three years, Musa clothes herself as a bride and dies. Although it is an autumn day, her death is accompanied by sweet music, green leaves,...

(The entire section is 455 words.)