Behind a Mask (Chapter 5, page 1 of 18)


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Chapter 5

At home he found a party of young friends, who hailed with delight the
prospect of a revel at the Hall. An hour later, the blithe company
trooped into the great saloon, where preparations had already been made
for a dramatic evening.

Good Sir John was in his element, for he was never so happy as when his
house was full of young people. Several persons were chosen, and in a
few moments the curtains were withdrawn from the first of these
impromptu tableaux. A swarthy, darkly bearded man lay asleep on a tiger
skin, in the shadow of a tent. Oriental arms and drapery surrounded him;
an antique silver lamp burned dimly on a table where fruit lay heaped in
costly dishes, and wine shone redly in half-emptied goblets. Bending
over the sleeper was a woman robed with barbaric splendor. One hand
turned back the embroidered sleeve from the arm which held a scimitar;
one slender foot in a scarlet sandal was visible under the white tunic;
her purple mantle swept down from snowy shoulders; fillets of gold bound
her hair, and jewels shone on neck and arms. She was looking over her
shoulder toward the entrance of the tent, with a steady yet stealthy
look, so effective that for a moment the spectators held their breath,
as if they also heard a passing footstep.

"Who is it?" whispered Lucia, for the face was new to her.

"Jean Muir," answered Coventry, with an absorbed look.

"Impossible! She is small and fair," began Lucia, but a hasty "Hush, let
me look!" from her cousin silenced her.

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