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evening of the masquerade arrived.
It Is not our Intention to enter Into a long description
of a scene the nature of which must be so well known to our readers.
Suffice it to say that at an early hour Old Drury was,
within, a blaze of light. The pit had been boarded over so as to form a floor
level with the stage, at the extremity of which the orchestra was placed. The
spacious arena thus opened, soon wore a busy and interesting appearance, when
the masques began to arrive; and the boxes were speedily filled with ladies and
gentlemen who, wearing no fancy costumes, had thronged thither for the purpose
of beholding, but not commingling with, the diversions of the masquerade.
To contemplate that blaze of female loveliness which
adorned the boxes, one would imagine that all the most charming women of the
metropolis had assembled there by common consent that night; and the traveller,
who had visited foreign climes, must have been constrained to admit that no
other city in the universe could produce such a brilliant congress.
For the fastidious elegancies of fashion, sprightliness
of manners, sparkling discourse, and all the refinements of a consummate
civilization, which are splendid substitutes for mere animal beauty, the ladies
of Paris are unequalled — but for female loveliness in all its glowing
perfection — in all its most voluptuous expansion, London is the sovereign
city that knows in this respect no rival.
In sooth, the scene was ravishing and gorgeous within
Old Drury on the night of which we are writing.
The spacious floor was crowded with masques in the most
varied and fanciful garbs.
There were Turks who had never uttered a "Bismillah,"
and Shepherdesses who had seen more of mutton upon their tables than ever they
had in the fields; — Highlanders who had never been twenty miles north of
London, and Princesses whose fathers were excellent aldermen or most
conscientious tradesmen; — Generals without armies, and Flower-Girls whose
gardens consisted of a pot of mignonette on the ledge of their bed-room windows;
— Admirals whose nautical knowledge had been gleaned on board Gravesend
steamers, and Heathen Goddesses who were devoted Christians:-Ancient Knights who
had not even seen so much as the Eglintoun Tournament, and Witches whose only
charms lay in their eyes; — and numbers, of both sexes, attired in
fancy-dresses which were very fanciful indeed.
Then there was all the usual fun and frolic of a
masquerade; — friends availing themselves of their masks and disguises to
mystify each other, — witticism and repartee, which if not sharp nor pointed,
still served the purpose of eliciting laughter, — and strange mistakes in
respect to personal identity, which were more diverting than all.
There was also plenty of subdued whispering between
youthful couples; for Love is as busy at masquerades as elsewhere.
The brilliancy of the dresses in the boxes, and the
variety of those upon the floor, combined with the blaze of light and the sounds
of the music [-36-] formed a scene at once gay,
exhilarating, and ravishing.
At about a quarter before ten o'clock, a masque, attired
in the sombre garb of a Carmelite Friar, with his cowl drawn completely over his
face, and a long rosary hanging from the rude cord which girt his waist, entered
He cast a wistful glance, through the slight opening in
his cowl, all around; and, not perceiving the person whom he sought, retired
into the most obscure nook which be could find, but whence he could observe all
At five minutes to ten, a lady, habited as a Circassian
slave, and wearing an ample white veil, so thick that it was impossible to
obtain a glimpse of her countenance, alighted from a cab at the principal
entrance of the theatre.
Lightly she tripped up the steps; but as she was about
to enter the vestibule, her veil caught the buttons of a lounger's coat, and was
drawn partly of her face.
She immediately re-adjusted it-but not before a
gentleman, masked, and in the habit of a Greek Brigand, who was entering it the
time, obtained, glimpse of her features.
"What! Ellen here!" murmured the Greek
Brigand to himself: "I must not lose sight of her!"
Ellen did not however notice that she had been
particularly observed; much less did she suspect that she was recognised.
But as she hastened up the great staircase, the Greek
Brigand followed her closely.
Although her countenance was so completely concealed,
her charming figure was nevertheless set off to infinite advantage by the dualma
which she wore, and which, fitting close to her shape, reached down to her
knees. Her ample trousers were tied just above the ankle where the graceful
swell of the leg commenced; and her little feet were protected by red slippers.
The Brigand who had recognised her, and now watched her
attentively, was tall, slender, well-made, and of elegant deportment.
Ellen soon found herself in the midst of the busy scene,
where her graceful form and becoming attire immediately attracted attention.
"Fair eastern lady," said an Ancient Knight in
buff jerkin and plumed tocque, "if thou hast lost the swain that should
attend upon thee, accept of my protection until thou shalt find him."
"Thanks for thy courtesy, Sir Knight,"
answered Ellen, gaily: "I am come to confess to a holy father whom I see
"Wilt thou then abjure thine own creed, and imbrace
ours!" asked the Knight.
"Such is indeed my intention, Sir Knight,"
replied Ellen; and she darted away towards the Carmelite Friar whom she had
espied in his nook.
The Ancient Knight mingled with a group of Generals and
Heathen Goddesses, and did not offer to pester Ellen with any more of his
"Sweet girl," said Reginald Tracy (whom the
reader has of course recognised in the Carmelite Friar), when Ellen joined him,
how can I sufficiently thank you for this condescension on your part?"
"I am fully recompensed by the attention you have
shown to the little caprice which prompted me to choose this scene for the
interview that you desired," answered Ellen.
Both spoke in a subdued tone — but not so low as to
prevent the Greek Brigand, who was standing near, from overhearing every word
"Mr. Tracy,' continued Ellen, "why did you
entrust your message of love to another!? why could you not impart with your own
lips that which you were anxious to communicate to me!"
"Dearest Ellen," answered the rector, "I
dared not open my heart to you in person — I was compelled to do so by means
"If your passion be an honourable one," said
Ellen, "there was no need to feel shame in revealing it."
"My passion is most sincere, Ellen. I would die for
you! Oh! from the first moment that I beheld you by your father's sick-bed, I
felt myself drawn towards you by an irresistible influence; and each time that I
have since seen you has only tended to rivet more firmly the chain which makes
me your slave. Have I not given you an unquestionable proof of my sincerity by
meeting you here?"
"A proof of your desire to please me, no
doubt," said Ellen. "But what proof have I that your passion is an
honourable one! You speak of its sincerity — you avoid all allusion to the
terms on which you would desire me to return it."
"What terms do you demand?" asked the rector.
"Shall I lay my whole fortune at your feet? Shall I purchase a splendid
house, with costly appointments, for you? In a word, what proof of my love do
"Are you speaking as a man who would make a
settlement upon a wife, or as one who is endeavouring to arrange terms with a
mistress?" demanded Ellen.
"My sweet girl," replied Reginald. know you
not that, throughout my career, I have from the pulpit denounced the practice of
a man in holy orders marrying, and that I have more than once declared —
solemnly declared — my intention of remaining single upon principle! You would
not wish me to commit an inconsistency which might throw a suspicion upon my
"Then, sir, by what right do you presume that I
will compromise my fair fame for your sake, if you tremble to sacrifice your
reputation for mine?" asked Ellen. "Is every compromise to be effected
by poor woman, and shall man make no sacrifice for her! Are you vile, or base,
or cowardly enough to ask me to desert home and friends to gratify your selfish
passion, while you carefully shroud your weakness beneath the hypocritical cloak
of reputed sanctity! Was it to hear such language as this that I agreed to meet
you? But know, sir, that you have greatly — oh! greatly mistaken me! By
the most unmanly — the most disgraceful means you endeavoured to wring from
me, a few days ago, a secret which certain expressions of mine, incautiously
uttered over what I conceived to be my father's death-bed, had perhaps made you
more than half suspect. Those words, which escaped me in a moment of bitter
anguish, you treasured up, and converted them into the text for a sermon which
you preached me."
"Ellen," murmured the rector; "why these
"Oh! why these reproaches? — I will tell
you," continued the young lady, whose bosom palpitated violently beneath
the dualma. "Do you think that you did well to press me to reveal the
secret of my [-36-] shame! Do you think that you
adopted an honourable means to discover it? When you addressed me in that
saintly manner — a manner which I now know to have been that of a vile
hypocrisy — I actually believed you to be sincere; for the time I fancied that
a man of God was offering me consolation. Nevertheless, think you that my
feelings were not wounded! But an accident made you acquainted with that truth
which you vainly endeavoured to extort from me! And now you perhaps believe that
I cannot read your heart. Oh! I can fathom its depths but too well. You cherish
the idea that because I have been frail once, I am fair game for a licentious
sportsman like you. You are wrong, sir — you are wrong. I never erred but once
— but once, mark you; — and then not through passion — nor through
love-nor in a moment of surprise. I erred deliberately — no matter why. The
result was the child whom you have seen. But never, never will I err more —
no, not even though tempted, as I have been, by the father of my child!
You sent to me a messenger-the same filthy hag who pandered to my first, my only
disgrace, — you sent her as your herald of love. Ah! sir, you must have
already plunged into ways at variance with the sanctity of your character — or
you could not have known her! I told her-as I now assure you — that I
do not affect a virtue which I possess not; — but if I henceforth remain pure
and chaste, it is because I am a mother — because I love my child — because
I will keep myself worthy of the respect of him who is the father of that
child, should God ever move his heart towards me. Say then that I am virtuous
upon calculation — I care not: still I am virtuous!"
The individual in the garb of the Greek Bandit drew a
pace or two nearer as these words met his ears.
Neither the rector nor Ellen observed that he was paying
any attention to them: on the contrary, he appeared to be entirely occupied in
contemplating the dancers from beneath his impervious mask.
"Ellen, what means all this?" asked Reginald:
"are you angry with me? You alarm me!"
"Suffer me to proceed, that you may understand me
fully," said Ellen. "You mercilessly sought to cover me with
humiliation, when you rudely probed that wound in my heart, the existence of
which an unguarded expression of mine had revealed to you. Your conduct was
base-was cowardly; and as a woman, I eagerly embraced the opportunity to avenge
"To avenge yourself!" faltered Reginald,
nearly sinking with terror as these words fell upon his ears.
"Yes-to avenge myself," repeated Ellen hastily
"When your messenger — that vile agent of crime proposed to me that I
should grant you an interview, I bethought myself of this ball which I had seen
announced in the newspapers. It struck me that if I could induce you — you,
the man of sanctity — to clothe yourself in the mummery of a mask and meet me
at a scene which you and your fellow ecclesiastics denounce as one worthy of
Satan, I should hurl back with tenfold effect that deep, deep humiliation which
you visited upon me. It was for this that I made the appointment here to-night
— for this that I retired early to my chamber, and thence stole forth unknown
to my father and my benefactor — for this that I now form one at an assembly
which has no charms for me! My intention was to seize an opportunity to tear
your disguise from you, and allow all present to behold amongst them the
immaculate rector of Saint David's. But I will be more merciful to you than you
were to me: I will not inflict upon you that last and most poignant
"My God! Miss Monroe, are you serious?" said
the rector, deeply humbled; "or is this merely a portion of the
"Does it seem sport to you?" asked Ellen:
"if so, I will continue it, and wind it up with the scene which I had
"For heaven's sake, do not expose me, Miss
Monroe!" murmured Reginald, now writhing in agony at the turn which the
matter had taken. "Let me depart — and forget that I ever dared to
address you rudely."
"Yes — go," said Ellen: "you are
punished sufficiently. You possess the secret of my frailty — I possess the
secret of your hypocrisy: beware of the use you make of your knowledge of me,
lest I retaliate by exposing you."
There was something very terrible in the lesson which
that young woman gave the libidinous priest on this occasion; and he felt it in
its full force.
Cowering within himself, he uttered not another word,
but stole away, completely subdued — cruelly humiliated.
Ellen lingered for a few moments on the spot where she
had so effectually chastised the insolent hypocrite; and then hastily retired.
The Greek Brigand made a movement as if he were about to
follow her; but, yielding to a second thought, he stopped, murmuring, "By
heavens! she is a noble creature!
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