Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> The Unknown Masque: A Sketch of the Crescent City >> Page 202

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Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription 202THE UNKNOWN MASQUE
vulsed with his rapturous and but half suppressed admiration. I
could see, as I fancied, that she smiled particularly on him. She was
aware of the habits in which we came. In this respect, she possessed
an advantage over all the circle. It was one of the modes adopted
for securing the company from the obtrusion of improper persons
that each invited guest bore a card with her signature, and upon his
acceptance of her invitation, apprized her of the costume in which he
would appear. For a moment, I could see that her eye lingered upon
the erect form of my friend, shrouded as it was, in the flowing gar-
ments of an Egyptian. Then we gave way to other visitors. At a
signal, Madame de B disappeared from the hall of reception,
and when she again re-appeared, it was only to be lost among the
thousand masques, of whom nothing could be known but by con-
jecture. The music timed all our proceedings, whether we danced,
or walked, or took refreshments. Now we grew together in groups,
interested by the attractive and spirited dialogue of some two masks
doing more than usual justice to their assumed characters, and now
we lingered over the prophecies of a saucy gypsy, or followed laugh-
ing upon the ludicrous footsteps of the Italian Harlequin. It was not
long before the very monotonous and somewhat silly exordium on
these occasions, the "Je to Connais!" with which every thing in the
shape of conversation begins, yielded to settled dialogue. The groups
had subsided into pairs, each drawing aside the mask which promised
most pleasure, or satisfied that vanity which did not relish being left
alone. Of my own adventures and successes, I can say but little. My
fortune was not a prominent or highly promising one. I had my
companion, and changed her, often enough, and more frequently
than was needful or prudent, if the truth were known; but I made
no conquests prevailed upon none to remove their masks, and was
rather fatigued than delighted before the sports were well over.
But such had not been the case with R. F. He came to me a little after
midnight. The clock upon the mantle had been silenced, and, half
tired, I was stealing a glance at my watch concealed in the folds of
my vest, when he laid his hand upon my arm. I turned with a guilty
consciousness.
"Fie!" said he, "looking at your watch ! It would not do for
Madame de B to see you."