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She was sitting ill alone in a corner near-by, partly screened by a pot of orange-trees. I crossed over and sat down by her side. This might prove an adventure worth while.
"What a beautiful night it is!" I said.
She turned, and I caught sight of a wisp of golden hair.
"That is very original," said she. "Who in the world would have thought of passing comments on the weather at a masque! Prior to this moment the men have been calling me all sorts of sentimental names."
"Oh, I am coming to that. I am even going to make love to you."
She folded her hands,—rather resignedly, I thought,—and the rollicking comedy began.
WHEN they give you a mask at a ball they also give you the key to all manner of folly and impudence. Even stupid persons become witty, and the witty become correspondingly daring. For all I knew, the Blue Domino at my side might be Jones' wife, or Brown's, or Smith's, or even Green's; but so long as I was not certain, it mattered not in what direction my whimsical fancy took me. (It is true that ordinarily Jones and Brown and Smith and Green do not receive invitations to attend masquerades at fashionable hunt clubs; but somehow they seem to worry along without these equivocal honors, and prosper. Still, there are persons in the swim named Johnes and Smythe and Browne and Greene. Pardon this parenthesis!)
As I recollected the manner in which I had self-invited the pleasure of my company to this carnival at the Blankshire Hunt Club, I smiled behind my mask. Nerves! I ought to have been a professor of clinics instead of an automobile agent. But the whole affair appealed to me so strongly I could not resist it. I was drawn into the tangle by the very fascination of the scheme. I was an interloper, but nobody knew it. The ten of hearts in my pocket did not match the backs of those cards regularly issued. But what of that? Every
one was ignorant of the fact. I was safe inside; and all that was romantic in my system was aroused. There are always some guests who can not avail themselves of their invitations; and upon this vague chance I had staked my play. Besides, I was determined to disappear before the hour of unmasking. I wasn't going to take any unnecessary risks. I was, then, fairly secure under my Capuchin's robe.
Out of my mind slipped the previous adventures of the evening. I forgot, temporarily, the beautiful unknown at Mouquin's. I forgot the sardonic-lipped stranger I had met in Friard's. I forgot everything save the little ticket that had accidentally slipped into my package, and which announced that some one had rented a blue domino.
And here was a Blue Domino at my side, just simply dying to have me talk to her!
"I am madly in love with you," I began. "I have followed you often; I have seen you in your box at the opera; I have seen you whirl up Fifth Avenue in your fine barouche; and here at last I meet you!" I clasped my hands passionately.
"My beautiful barouche! My box at the opera!" the girl mimicked. "What a cheerful Ananias you are!"
"Thou art the most enchanting creature in all the universe. Thou art even as a turquoise, a patch of radiant summer sky, eyes of sapphire, lips—"
"Archaic, very archaic," she interrupted.
"Disillusioned in ten seconds!" I cried dismally. "How could you?"