AUTHOR OF "THE RISE OF SILAS LAPHAM," "A MODERN INSTANCE," "WOMAN'S REASON," ETC.
"...The narrow streets roared with the wheels of cabs and carriages coming and going; the street before the theatre was so packed that it was some time before they could reach the door. Masks were passing in and out; the nervous joy of the ladies expressed itself in a deep-drawn quivering sigh. Their carriage door was opened by a servant of the theatre, who wished them a pleasant veglione, and the next moment they were in the crowded vestibule, where they paused a moment, to let Imogene and Effie really feel that they were part of a masquerade.
"Now, keep all together," said Mrs. Bowen, as they passed through the inner door of the vestibule, and the brilliantly lighted theatre flashed its colours and splendours upon them. The floor of the pit had been levelled to that of the stage, which, stripped of the scenic apparatus, opened vaster spaces for the motley crew already eddying over it in the waltz. The boxes, tier over tier, blazed with the light of candelabra which added their sparkle to that of the gas jets.
"You and Effie go before," said Mrs. Bowen to Imogene. She made them take hands like children, and mechanically passed her own hand through Colville's arm.
A mask in red from head to foot attached himself to the party, and began to make love to her in excellent pantomime.
Colville was annoyed. He asked her if he should tell the fellow to take himself off.
"Not on any account!" she answered. "It's perfectly delightful. It wouldn't be the veglione without it. Did you ever see such good acting?"
"I don't think it's remarkable for anything but its fervour," said Colville.
"I should like to see you making love to some lady," she rejoined mischievously.
"I will make love to you, if you like," he said, but he felt in an instant that his joke was in bad taste.
They went the round of the theatre. "That is Prince Strozzi, Imogene," said Mrs. Bowen, leaning forward to whisper to the girl. She pointed out other people of historic and aristocratic names in the boxes, where there was a democracy of beauty among the ladies, all painted and powdered to the same marquise effect.
On the floor were gentlemen in evening dress, without masks, and here and there ladies waltzing, who had masks but no dominoes. But for the most part people were in costume; the theatre flushed and flowered in gay variety of tint that teased the eye with its flow through the dance.
Mrs. Bowen had circumscribed the adventure so as to exclude dancing from it. Imogene was not to dance. One might go to the veglione and look on from a box; if one ventured further and went on the floor, decidedly one was not to dance.
This was thoroughly understood beforehand, and there were to be no petitions or murmurs at the theatre. They found a quiet corner, and sat down to look on.
The mask in red followed, and took his place at a little distance, where, whenever Mrs. Bowen looked that way, he continued to protest his passion.
"You're sure he doesn't bore you?" suggested Colville.
"No, indeed. He's very amusing."
"Oh, all right!"
The waltz ceased; the whirling and winding confusion broke into an irregular streaming hither and thither, up and down. They began to pick out costumes and characters that interested them. Clowns in white, with big noses, and harlequins in their motley, with flat black masks, abounded. There were some admirable grasshoppers in green, with long antennae quivering from their foreheads. Two or three Mephistos reddened through the crowd. Several knights in armour got about with difficulty, apparently burdened by their greaves and breastplates..."