Hearts and Masks (Chapter 3, page 1 of 15)


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Chapter 3

When they give you a mask at a ball they also give you the key to all
manner of folly and impudence. Even stupid persons become witty, and
the witty become correspondingly daring. For all I knew, the Blue
Domino at my side might be Jones' wife, or Brown's, or Smith's, or even
Green's; but so long as I was not certain, it mattered not in what
direction my whimsical fancy took me. (It is true that ordinarily
Jones and Brown and Smith and Green do not receive invitations to
attend masquerades at fashionable hunt clubs; but somehow they seem to
worry along without these equivocal honors, and prosper. Still, there
are persons in the swim named Johnes and Smythe and Browne and Greene.
Pardon this parenthesis!)

As I recollected the manner in which I had self-invited the pleasure of
my company to this carnival at the Blankshire Hunt Club, I smiled
behind my mask. Nerves! I ought to have been a professor of clinics
instead of an automobile agent. But the whole affair appealed to me so
strongly I could not resist it. I was drawn into the tangle by the
very fascination of the scheme. I was an interloper, but nobody knew
it. The ten of hearts in my pocket did not match the backs of those
cards regularly issued. But what of that? Every one was ignorant of
the fact. I was safe inside; and all that was romantic in my system
was aroused. There are always some guests who can not avail themselves
of their invitations; and upon this vague chance I had staked my play.
Besides, I was determined to disappear before the hour of unmasking. I
wasn't going to take any unnecessary risks. I was, then, fairly secure
under my Capuchin's robe.

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