Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> The Unknown Masque: A Sketch of the Crescent City >> Page 206

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Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription 206THE UNKNOWN MASQUE
some distinguished friend of the family, or some one about whose
invitation and costume there had been some mistake. When R. F.
drew nigh and communicated the charge of Madame de B, the
stranger immediately took his way to the chamber. R. F. kept beside
him, and I followed close behind, with some half dozen eyes, curious
to see into the mystery, if any, and be the first to declare it to the
crowd. When we reached the door of the room where Madame
awaited him, the masque entered, and R. F. followed him. I closed
the door and held it firmly. But, in a moment after, R. F. came out,
the stranger positively refusing to unmask unless he did so. Then
followed a few words from Madame. We could hear the dignified
tones of her voice, sweet still, in spite of its majesty. A subdued
murmur followed. Then silence, and then a shriek, —a shriek of
horror and agony and terror, such as I never wish to hear again.
This was succeeded by the noise of a falling body, with the rattle
of a chair, which seemed to have been crushed at the same instant.
The whole thing was over in a moment, and in the next, R. F., not
waiting for me to open it, drove the door with his foot. We rushed
in, followed by a crowd, and there was Madame de Bprostrate,
senseless, with her face prone upon the floor. But the Egyptian was
nowhere to be seen. How had he escaped? The windows were all
closed. He had not passed by us. There was but one other door to the
apartment, and that led into the ball-room and was locked.
We raised Madame de Bfrom the floor. She was utterly un-
conscious. Her lips were livid,—her eyes open wide, and glaring
upon us with a terrible vacancy, that declared more emphatically
than any words, the degree of horror and affright to which she had
been subjected. She recovered her consciousness after some hours,
in which it was doubtful whether life remained in her heart or not.
Months after this event, R. F. had an interview with the woman
whom he still loved most devotedly. She had corresponded with him
meanwhile, that is to say, she had answered his letters, but had
given him no encouragement. His hopes depended upon a personal
interview. That he had partially won her affections before, there is
no reason to doubt. That he had extorted from her a confession of
preference, I have every reason to believe. But all was changed after
that fatal masquerade. When R. F. renewed his suit, she answered