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Questions and Commands.
As night drew on, more and more company continued to pour in. The windows being very bright, and the curtains not drawn, no motion of the party could escape our advocate. What pleased him better than all the splendor which he saw, was the melancholy countenance of the kind-hearted girl, as she stood at the centre window and looked over at him. This melancholy countenance and these looks, directed at himself, were occasioned, as he soon became aware, by a proposal which had been made to play at questions and commands. This game, in fact, soon began. “Thunder and lightning!” said Mr. Tempest, discovering what it was, “is this to be endured ?”
If the mere possibility of such an issue had alarmed him, how much more sensible was his affliction when he saw, as a matter of fact laid visibly before his bodily eyes, that every
fool and coxcomb availed himself of the privilege of the game to give to Ida, his own destined bride, kisses * without let or hindrance; “whilst I,” said he, “I, John Tempest, have never yet been blessed with one.”
But if the sight of such liberties taken with his blooming Ida placed him on the brink of desperation, much more desperate did he become when that sight was shut out by that “consummate villain” (as he chose to style him) the footman, who at this moment took it into his head, or was ordered, to let down the curtains. Behind the curtains, ah! ye gods, what scenes might not pass !
“ This must be put a stop to,” said Mr. Tempest, taking
* The reader must remember that the scene is laid in Germany. This, and other instances of grossièreté, have been purposely retained, in illustration of German manners.
his hat and cane, and walking into the street. Ay; but how? This was a question he could not answer. Wandering, therefore, up and down the streets until it had become quite dark, he returned at length to the point from which he had set out, and found that one nuisance at least – viz. the kissing - had ceased, and had given place to a concert. For Ida's musical talents and fine voice were well known, and she was generally called the little Catalani. She was now singing, and a crowd of persons
had collected under the window to hear her, who seemed, by their looks, to curse every passer-by for the disturbance he made.
Mr. Tempest crept on tiptoe to join the crowd of listeners, and was enraptured by the sweet tones of Ida's voice. After the conclusion of the air, and when the usual hubbub of enchanting! divine ! &c. had rung out its peal, the by-standers outside began to talk of the masquerade. In the crowd were some of those who had been invited; and one amongst them was flattering himself that nobody would recognize him before he should unmasque.
The Death's-Head Masque. Thus much information Mr. Tempest drew from this casual conversation, that he found it would not be required of the masquers to announce their names to any person on their arrival. Upon this hint he grounded a plan for taking a part in the masqued ball. By good luck he was already provided with a black domino against the winter masquerades at the public rooms; this domino was so contrived that the head of the wearer was hidden under the cloak, in which an imperceptible opening was made for the eyes; the real head thus became a pair of shoul
ders, and upon this was placed a false head, which, when lifted up, exposed a white skull with eyeless sockets, and grinning, with a set of brilliantly white teeth, at the curious spectator.
Having settled his scheme, Mr. Tempest withdrew his own lodgings, in order to make preparations for its execution.
CHAPTER X V.
It's only I.
The company at Mr. Goodchild's consisted of two divisions: No. 1, embracing the elder or more fashionable persons, and those who were nearly connected with the family, had been invited to tea, supper, and a masqued ball; No. 2, the younger and less distinguished persons, had been invited to the ball only. This arrangement, which proceeded from the penurious disposition of Mr. Goodchild, had on this occasion the hearty approbation of Mr. Tempest. About eleven o'clock, therefore, when a great part of the guests in the second division had already arrived, he ordered a sedan-chair to be fetched; and then, causing himself to be carried up and down through several streets, that nobody might discover from what house the gigantic domino had issued, he repaired to the house of Mr. Goodchild.
His extraordinary stature excited so much the more astonishment amongst the party-colored mob of masquers, because he kept himself wholly aloof from all the rest, and paced up and down with haughty strides. His demeanor and air had in it something terrific to everybody except to Ida, to whom he had whispered as he passed her alone in an anteroom, “Don't be alarmed; it's only I;" at the same time giving her a billet, in which he requested a few
moments' conversation with her at any time in the course of the evening.
Some persons, however, had observed him speaking to Ida ; and therefore, on her return to the great saloon, she was pressed on all sides to tell what she knew of the mysterious giant. She, good heavens! how should she know anything of him? “What had he said, then?” T'hat, too, she could as little answer. He spoke, she said, in such a low, hollow, and unintelligible tone, that she was quite alarmed, and heard nothing of what he uttered.
The company now betrayed more and more anxiety in reference to the unknown masque, so that Ida had no chance for answering his billet, or granting the request which it contained. Mr. Tempest now began to regret much that he had not selected an ordinary masque, in which he might have conversed at his ease, without being so remarkably pointed out to the public attention.
CHAPTER X VI.
The murmurs about the tall domino grew louder and louder, and gathered more and more about him. He began to hear doubts plainly expressed, whether he was actually invited. The master of the house protested, that, so far from having any such giant amongst his acquaintance, he had never seen such a giant except in showbooths. This mention of booths gave a very unfortunate direction to the suspicions already abroad against the poor advocate; for at that time there was a giant in the town who was exhibiting himself for money, and Mr. Goodchild began to surmise that this man, either with a view to the increasing his knowledge of men and manners, or for his recreation after the tedium of standing to
be gazed at through a whole day's length, had possibly smuggled himself as a contraband article into his masqued ball.
The worthy host set to work very deliberately to count his guests, and it turned out that there was actually just one masque more than there should be. Upon this he stepped into the middle of the company, and spoke as follows: "Most respectable and respected masques, under existing circumstances, and for certain weighty causes me thereto moving (this phrase Mr. Goodchild had borrowed from his lawyer), I have to request that you will all and several, one after another, communicate your names to me by whispering them into my ear.”
Well did Mr. Tempest perceive what were the existing circumstances, and what the reasons thereto moving, which had led to this measure; and very gladly he would have withdrawn himself from this vexatious examination by marching off; but it did not escape him that a couple of sentinels were already posted at the door.
More than one half of the guests had already communicated their names to Mr. Goodchild, and stood waiting in the utmost impatience for the examination of the giant. But the giant, on his part, was so little eager to gratify them by passing before others, that at length, when all the rest had gone through their probation honorably, he remained the last man, and thus was, ipso